Ford’s new companions: robot dogs

DEARBORN, MI. July 27, 2020 – Paula Wiebelhaus, Fluffy’s handler, navigates Fluffy, the dog-like robot, through the plant. Ford is tapping four-legged robots at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant in early August to laser scan the plant, helping engineers update the original computer-aided design. These robots can be deployed into tough-to-reach areas within the plant to scan the area with laser scanners and high-definition cameras, collecting data used to retool plants, saving Ford engineers time and money. Ford is leasing two robots, nicknamed Fluffy and Spot, from Boston Dynamics – a company known for building sophisticated mobile robots.

Dogs, anyone? Everyone, I suppose. From acting as your method of picking up ladies to acting as the internet meme mediary, our little (Or big, sometimes. Very big) companions have never failed to fulfil their appointed duty of being man’s best friend. And it seems like the world isn’t ready to get tired of them anytime soon, so they’ve just been made future-proof. Ford now employs robot dogs to be their new best friend.

Isn’t that cute?

Powered by Boston Dynamics, Ford has been utilising robot dogs to prowl around their Van Dyke Transmission Plant, to assist with operations, of course. Ford seldom needs to scan its plants because they get updated and changed often without documentation. This makes an absolutely new engineering model necessary, in order to work off when retooling. Their previous method of going about that was reportedly expensive, costing nearly $300,000 to scan a whole facility. 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. The automaker says the eerie little fellows make it half as tedious and time-consuming to scan and document the entire floor layout.

 

“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,” said Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager. “Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy’s help, we are able to do it in half the time.” Moreover, renting the dogs is much cheaper, coming in at a fraction of the cost. Man’s companion has gone from uplifting hearts to advertising cost effectiveness. They really do it all don’t they.

 

Due to their compactability and agility, the robot dogs are able to squeeze into tiny and potentially dangerous spaces inside the plant that are restricted to humans, proving to be quite the utility items. Ford says they move through the plants at a maximum speed of 3 mph, nothing shy of two hours at a time, after which they require their juice. Just like any other dog. We don’t discriminate against dogs here! 

All jokes apart, I think the scenario is quite picturesque. Utility robot dogs running around factories helping humans as they always have sounds just about Disney-worthy. Ford expects these dogs could save time and money with tedious tasks in all its plants, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other factories started making use of them. Boston Dynamics, the manufacturer of the robots, may make them your helping hand for your home and the plan seems to be developing promptly. Let’s just hope the odd creatures don’t turn into the steeljaws from Transformers.