Meet Spot the Robot Dog, the Safety Enforcer at a Kia Automotive Plant

Automation is a complicated issue for the automotive industry. While automation has increased production, it has also resulted in a significant loss of jobs. Will assembly lines only have robots in the future? The latest robot employee for Hyundai reveals an intriguing yet terrifying future. Meet Spot the robot dog, the safety enforcer at a Kia automotive facility.

Hyundai ‘Factory Safety Service Robot’

Hyundai Factory Safety Service Robot walking in an open area of a Hyundai automotive plant
Hyundai Factory Safety Service Robot | Hyundai

In a scene straight out of one of The Terminator films or some dystopian future, Spot the robot dog patrols the factory floor of an automotive plant. The jazzy music in the video below does little to quell the intimidating aspects of the robot. 

Despite its frightening appearance, the robot dog has a functional purpose. Dubbed “Factory Safety Service Robot,” the robot dog improves industrial safety. The pilot project for the robot dog recently started at a Kia plant in South Korea. While Hyundai and Kia operate independently from each other, Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The safety robot is a collaboration between Hyundai and Boston Dynamics

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The “Factory Safety Service Robot” utilizes the design and technology of the Spot robot from Boston Dynamics. It uses a wide array of state-of-the-art technologies. This includes artificial intelligence, computing payload, teleoperation technologies, autonomous navigation, 3D LiDAR, and an integrated thermal camera. 

By using the 3D LiDAR and an integrated thermal camera, the safety robot can detect potential fire hazards, detect people around it, and perceive whether a door is closed or open. Also, plant personnel can remotely control the robot and observe a livestream of its surroundings via a secure webpage. Furthermore, with its AI technology, the robot can send alarms to managers at the plant if it detects any dangers.

Managers can switch between manual operation of the robot or allow it to function autonomously. The manual operation is useful when managers want to take a closer look at crucial situations and parts of the plant. Also, multiple safety robots can be utilized at the same time. 

Hyundai made special modifications for the safety robot

Hyundai Factory Safety Service Robot walking by machine at Hyundai automotive plant
Hyundai Factory Safety Service Robot | Hyundai

In addition to using the existing Boston Dynamics technologies, Hyundai made special modifications and additions for the safety robot. This includes a thermal camera for detecting high-temperature risks, AI for detecting people, and a navigation system to enable it to move autonomously around the plant. 

Hyundai also plans on applying these technologies to other types of mobile robots. Furthermore, Hyundai bought a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics, which will enable the automaker to more directly influence the development of robotic technologies. This includes robotic technology for Hyundai’s autonomous vehicles, industrial sites, and urban air mobility solutions. 

Robots: Are they good or bad for automotive plants?

The negative effects of automation are well known. Because of automation, many people lost their jobs in the automotive industry. However, there are also positive elements of automation. 

In addition to improving production, robots can do tasks that are dangerous and physically difficult for humans. Also, as demonstrated with the Hyundai “Factory Safety Service Robot,” robots can improve the overall safety at manufacturing facilities.

In some cases, robots can work side by side with humans and enhance the ability of humans to do a task. This is the case with the Hyundai safety robot, for it assists Hyundai plant workers with late-night security patrols.

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