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The unique set of wheeled, tracked, flying and walking robotic systems at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague has been expanded by two SPOT robots with a robotic arm. The SPOTs from Boston Dynamics arrived at Charles Square a few weeks ago, so the team of roboticists and computer scientists is still getting acquainted with them. However, one of them has already had its first test run.

In cooperation with company Kolektory Praha, it spent a total of six days underground in three different collectors, equipped with the navigation system of Faculty of Electrical Engineering (FEL). He made a digital 3D map of the collectors, which can be used by the founder, company Kolektory Praha, to make the normally inaccessible tunnels accessible through virtual tours. 

 "The digital 3D map can be used to complete the GIS database of the collector system that the company has been building for many years. The system will be used, among others, by IPR for the completion of technical maps of the capital city of Prague," comments Petr Švec, Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Data "mined" by SPOT in the Prague underground verifies the capability of autonomous navigation and will support the learning of radio signal propagation models

In addition, computer scientists tested the ability of the four-legged robot to move autonomously, i.e. without any human intervention, in an unknown environment that resembles a labyrinth. Collectors as passable linear structures located several tens of metres below the surface of the metropolis are ideal for this purpose.

"SPOT in the collectors collected data for research in the field of signal propagation in confined spaces, which our team will use in testing communication technologies and modelling new ways of communication in challenging environments," says Prof. Jan Faigl, head of the Laboratory of Computational Robotics at the Department of Computers, Faculty of Electrical Engineering. The team of computer scientists builds on the experience from the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, which also took place underground. The competitors had to invent the most innovative and reliable way of transmitting information in an environment without communication infrastructure.

The data that SPOT has "mined" in the collectors is still being processed, but FEL researchers plan to propose new models of signal propagation in confined spaces. The models will be used to create a communication infrastructure during the exploration of previously unknown environments. The ability of robots to create a very fast and efficient communication infrastructure will find applications not only in underground spaces, but also, for example, during natural disasters when the existing infrastructure is disrupted or completely missing.

Thanks to a robotic arm, SPOT can see into places where other robots can't go

SPOT is able to read the labels on the cables thanks to its robotic arm and is thus able to detect where the cable runs. At the same time, the robot enters it into a digital map of the collector. Compared to other robots, with its robotic arm, SPOT has two advantages. "Firstly, the arm allows it to look into places the robot cannot normally go because it has a camera and depth sensor built into it, so it can tilt similar to what a human would do. In addition, SPOT can use its hand to grasp objects, remove obstacles or open doors," explains Prof. Tomáš Svoboda, head of the Department of Cybernetics at FEL and also head of the CTU-CRAS-Norlab robotics team, which took silver in the virtual part of the competition at last year's DARPA Subterranean Challenge finals in Kentucky, USA. 

​With the new SPOTs, the roboticists and computer scientists from FEL are in the phase of familiriasing with them and testing of their capabilities, so they are not able to perform as many tasks with them compared to the other two SPOTs they have had since last year. One thing is certain: the "robodogs" with a hand will significantly expand the possibilities of research into autonomous manipulation without human supervision, which is one of the least explored areas of contemporary robotics. "It's a big and open area in research. We are preparing several pilot projects with them, in which the robotic arm will find application and interact with terrain, infrastructure and objects in general," summarises Tomáš Svoboda on behalf of the team of roboticists and computer scientists from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

You can watch a video with the new SPOT robot following the link





Contact person: 
Ing. Mgr. Radovan Suk