Success Stories and Key Lessons from the Robotics Industry in Light of the COVID-19 Crisis

by Rian Whitton | 2Q 2020 | IN-5828
There was the usual mixture of wonderment and indignation when Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini was deployed by the Singaporean Government to monitor social distancing in public parks. The concerns of onlookers notwithstanding, the deployment is largely for show and not practical. The quadruped is teleoperated for a start, requiring a remote controller to move the machine about. Though somewhat antithetical to the notion of autonomy, teleoperation of mobile unmanned systems makes sense in some cases. For industrial inspection, remotely controlling SpotMini, or a more specialized inspection device from companies like Gecko Robotics, is worthwhile; humans can direct and interact with an environment without risking their own personal safety. In mining sites as well, teleoperation of haulage trucks from a central command station offers added redundancy over a full autonomy solution. While not fully autonomous, a remotely operated vehicle can still achieve major efficiencies over fully manned systems. One teleoperator can oversee multiple systems and has access to more information infrastructure. For this reason, it is much more reasonable to suggest that, in the medium term, unmanned trucks and taxis will be remotely operated by a new class of virtual drivers than to expect autonomous driving.

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