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Foster + Partners collaborates with Boston Dynamics to monitor construction progress with robot dog

United Kingdom Architecture News - Nov 12, 2020 - 13:51   3398 views

Foster + Partners collaborates with Boston Dynamics to monitor construction progress with robot dog

Foster + Partners has collaborated with Boston Dynamics to explore the potential of a robot with a robot dog in construction sites and rough terrains. 

Named Spot, the agile robot dog, developed as part of Boston Dynamics’ Early Adopter Program, climbs stairs and traverses rough terrain with ease as a tool to capture and monitor progression on-site. 

The robot was developed by Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, and the two companies come together to explore the potentials of a robot used on-site.

Video courtesy of Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners collaborates with Boston Dynamics to monitor construction progress with robot dog

Foster + Partner’s own campus and Battersea Power Station were used as testing grounds for the project and the client and construction teams, the teams intended to support the project with this robot dog. 

"Foster + Partner's Applied Research + Development group (ARD) has been working with Boston Dynamics to explore the potential of a robot in a dynamic environment such as a construction site, capturing changes on a regular basis, and being able to easily compare the ‘as-designed’ models against the ‘as-built’ reality," said Foster + Partners.

"Construction sites are inherently dynamic environments, where changes need to be tracked and measured on a regular basis, capturing errors in time to meet the project timeframe and budget," added the firm. 

Foster + Partners collaborates with Boston Dynamics to monitor construction progress with robot dog

"With several contractors working in tandem on site, there is a need for a process that can allow for constant, quick and consistent precision monitoring of the works, which can ensure that potential deviation from the design – which may affect later works - can be picked up on time," continued the firm.  

The robot dog can create sequential scans to help supervise procurement and logistics and ensure and with this possibility timeframes can be kept under check. 

"If done manually, the process is time consuming and may potentially yield scans that cannot be easily compared against each other," added Foster + Partners.

Foster + Partners collaborates with Boston Dynamics to monitor construction progress with robot dog

"Spot" can also be controlled remotely, is terrain-agnostic and can also repeatedly follow a pre-mapped route - while avoiding obstacles or even climbing stairs - making it an optimal tool to be used to scan building sites on a regular basis with minimum resources and time.

To see the performance of the robot dog, the team used Foster + Partners-designed Battersea Roof Gardens mixed use project – part of the third phase of the Battersea Power Station development – as a testbed. 

The team set out a map to roughly set up the missions Spot needed to follow on site in order to scan certain areas and capture specific data. 

Returning to the site on a weekly basis allowed Spot to re-run the same missions with the process yielding a sequence of highly comparable, consistent models.

"The ability of Spot to repeatedly and effortlessly complete routine scans, in an ever-changing environment was invaluable not only in terms of the consistency but also the large amount of high-quality data collected. Through this process we developed a sequence of scans that may help us track the project progress against timeframes as well as facilitate regular comparisons against the BIM model," said Martha Tsigkari, Partner, Foster + Partners. 

"Our scans can ensure that very quick and accurate changes to the newly designed system could be made to accommodate the differences captured by the scans – all in a matter of days. This could result in savings both in terms of time and money."

Spot has also been instrumental in constructing a digital twin of the Foster + Partners campus in London. Spot’s Autowalk functionality allowed the team to build up a four-dimensional model, showing how the space changes over time.

Foster + Partners collaborates with Boston Dynamics to monitor construction progress with robot dog

"Combining temporal and spatial information with data from sensors that read environmental conditions and occupancy, we can construct an intricate model of how people, furnishings and environmental conditions interact. This, in turn, helps us to operate our premises more efficiently and to anticipate how new designs will perform," said Adam Davis, Partner, Foster + Partners.

"What made the adoption of Spot robot technology feasible and fruitful in such a short amount of time was the extraordinary support we received from Boston Dynamics throughout the process. We look forward to continuing our work with them to push the boundaries of innovation in the construction industry," added Tsigkari.

In 2018, Khaled Elashry, Associate at Foster + Partners, delivered a lecture at the Architecture of the Future Conference in Kyiv, and he stressed how the new technological tools drives design process faster and provides new ways of looking at design and seeing the impacts and results at that moment. 

All images: Boston Dynamics SPOT Cyberdog, inspects construction progress at BatterseaPower Station. Images © Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners.

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