Trimble collaboration enables robots to follow humans in industrial applications
Piaggio Fast Forward and Trimble have entered a proof-of-concept collaboration to enable robots and machines to follow humans and other machines in industrial applications.
Together, the companies have integrated a patent-pending PFFtag smart following module prototype developed by Piaggio Fast Forward onto a Boston Dynamics' Spot robot platform controlled by Trimble's advanced positioning technology. This eliminates the need to solely control the robot via joystick. This proof-of-concept is one of the many robots and autonomous vehicles Trimble provides solutions for and could apply to many industries Trimble serves, including construction, mining, agriculture and logistics.
Through PFF's extensive research and observations of how people navigate the physical world, the company continues to create innovative mobile technology solutions dedicated to improving human eﬃciency through intuitive collaboration with machines. The Trimble proof-of concept is a natural iteration of PFF's technology and business activities.
While many robots, including Spot, are currently controlled by joysticks operated in person or by telepresence from a remote location, operators can now leverage PFF's exclusive smart following technology, that allows humans to lead other robots and machines, providing a larger range of navigation methods—remote control, autonomous, and now, following—in dynamic environments. PFF engineers have been able to componentize the smart following technology developed for PFF's gita robot into a stand-alone module called PFFtag, which can be integrated on other machines or robots.
PFFtag enables external partners to leverage its exclusive algorithms and allow their software to communicate with PFF's software. This enables a human to control the robot via pairing and improves the robot's ability to sense direction and velocity as it follows the leader. A simple push of a button activates a fused sensor array that pairs to a leader who navigates Spot or another robot or machine in dynamic environments such as construction and civil engineering spaces—there is no special training to operate or joystick, no app or tablet. Ultimately, this can create a wider range of applications for existing machines and positively impact productivity, safety and quality of work.
As part of the proof-of-concept, Trimble conducted testing using a Spot robot equipped with Trimble laser scanning or Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sensors and PFFtag technology at one of its customer's sites in Colorado over the course of two months.
"The follow-me technology by PFF provides an intuitive user experience and opens the door to collaborative robots that can augment the human workforce," said Aviad Almagor, division vice president, Trimble's Emerging Technologies. "Like, a 21st century Sancho Panza, robots with PFFtag, may have the future ability to assist construction professionals in their daily workflow, carry heavy equipment, improve efficiency and enhance workers safety."
Armed with value insight from this proof-of concept, PFF will continue its vision of helping humans and machines collaborate in all environments, leading the charge to support the smart cities and worksites of tomorrow.