Spot the robot dog to the rescue to explore and secure the ruins of Pompeii

After exploring several mines and construction sites, measuring radiation in the vicinity of the damaged Chernobyl reactor, accompanying the French army in training and even making a music video with the South Korean group BTS, Spot the robot-dog is given a new mission.

Last March, the creation of the American company Boston Dynamics went for a walk on all fours in the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79. And it was not a simple health walk. Spot is indeed the experimental recruit of the new security service of the place.

The robot “is able to inspect even the smallest spaces in complete safety, collect and record useful data for the study and planning of interventions“, justified the Archaeological Park of Pompeii in a press release. This is the first time that such technology has been used in the ruins, said its director Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot exploring the ruins of Pompeii in March 2022. © Parco archeologico di Pompei

The objective is “to improve both the quality of monitoring of existing areas and to improve our knowledge of the progress of work in these areas subject to reconstruction or restoration, and thus to manage site security, and that of the workers“, continued the park.

Explore the tunnels dug by looters

Since 2012, the archaeological site of Pompeii has experienced a real revival. Several collapses and an increase in clandestine excavations have triggered the implementation of a vast project to restore and protect the remains of the ancient city. A project that has made it possible in recent years to multiply discoveries and open up areas that were previously closed to the public.

⋙ The last hours of Pompeii: a captivating archaeological investigation in the heart of the disappeared city

Thanks to these efforts, clandestine flights and excursions have become rarer, but tunnels dug by looters are still discovered in the vicinity of Pompeii. However, the fragility of the ruins makes them dangerous to explore. This is where Spot, its four robotic legs, its sensors and its 360° color camera come into their own.

Safety conditions inside tunnels are often extremely perilous. The use of a robot could thus constitute a step forward allowing us to intervene more quickly and in total safety.“, supported Gabriel Zuchtriegel. But the robot-dog could also help to explore, day and night, the areas being restored just as fragile.

A robot dog and a flying scanner

The initiative is part of a larger project called Smart@POMPEI aimed at improving the management of the archaeological park using technology. In addition to Spot, the initial phases of the experiment also involved the Leica BLK2FLY, a flying device capable of carrying out 3D scanners autonomously.

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The Spot robot-dog and the Leika BLK2FLY being tested in the ruins of Pompeii. © Parco archeologico di Pompei

Technological advances in the world of robotics, in the form of artificial intelligence or so-called autonomous systems, have produced solutions and innovations usually associated with the world of industry and production.“, explained Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

So far, however, “they had not found application in archaeological sites due to the heterogeneity of the environmental conditions and the size of the site“, he continued. With this experiment, Spot, whose price starts at 74,500 dollars (about 68,000 euros) could thus see a new cap added to its already full career.

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Spot the robot dog to the rescue to explore and secure the ruins of Pompeii


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