Ford is bringing a couple Boston Dynamics robot dogs to Michigan to prowl around into its Van Dyke Transmission Plant. They’ll be doing more than just creeping out plant workers with their freakishly impressive capabilities, too.
The two dogs, named Fluffy and Spot, are there to laser scan the plant so engineers can be prepared to retool it in the future. Ford is able to send the two dogs out into the plant and control them with remote controls. Each robot dog is equipped with five cameras that allow it to scan the facility in detail. If it weren’t for the robot dogs, Ford says the scanning and documenting of the floor layout would take twice as long.
“We used to use a tripod, and we would walk around the facility stopping at different locations, each time standing around for five minutes waiting for the laser to scan,” Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager says. “Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy’s help, we are able to do it in half the time.”
Ford needs to scan its plants because they get updated and changed often enough without documentation that they need a totally new engineering model to work off when retooling. The old way of doing that was reportedly expensive, costing nearly $300,000 to scan a whole facility. Ford says renting the dogs is much cheaper, coming in at a fraction of the cost.
One other benefit of the dogs is their small size and agility. They’re able to squeeze into small (and potentially dangerous) places inside the plant that humans couldn’t. Ford says they move through the plants at a maximum speed of 3 mph for about two hours at a time, restricted only by their battery charge.
Ultimately, Ford expects these dogs could save time and money with tedious tasks like this one in all its plants. It's not the first time the company has latched onto some wacky robots, either. One of them being named Fluffy is irony at its best, as the Boston Dynamics dogs always remind us of Black Mirror’s murder dogs. These ones are designed to be benevolent. And in case you were thirsty for more creepy robot dog content, check out this video of a pack of Boston Dynamics dogs tugging a big truck.