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Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Begins New Insurance Work • The Register

Boston Dynamics’ spooky robot dog Spot has found another new employer for his unique skills.

Having already found work checking nuclear power plants, probing suspicious packages, upholding social distancing rules during the pandemic, and – briefly – working as a police dog in New York City before being unceremoniously fired, the headless robohound is now operated by US-based Farmers Insurance to assist its agents with property inspections and “field disaster claims”, or assessments in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters and major events.

The creepy but willful cybernetic pooch has been adapted to the needs of farmers, receiving additional gear to aid it in its new task, adding a 360 ° camera, site documentation software, and a new blue paint over its dress usual yellow and black. headless chassis.

The insurer’s new best friend has also been outfitted with a frankly terrifying extendable robot arm, which makes him look like a miniature tailless sauropod and will no doubt keep it occupying readers’ nightmares for weeks to come.

While robot deployments invariably boil down to money, with technology being used to reduce the number of humans who must be paid to do a given job, deploying Spot robots in a post-disaster environment makes sense. Devastation from a hurricane, flood, major fire or other serious emergency can leave secondary services such as insurance stretched beyond their capacity, with a limited number of agents potentially dealing with thousands of claims over a large area affected by infrastructure damage, road closures, and other hazards.

As Farmers himself explained in a statement, “The robot’s agility, advanced mobility, and the perception of navigating various rough terrain will allow it to access spaces and environments inaccessible to claims employees. . field complaints review process. “

While Farmers currently plans to use Spotbots only in a limited number of situations, they are considering expanding the use if this proves to be successful.

“The robot can be used to handle non-catastrophic events such as structural fires, collapsed structures, water loss or other potentially dangerous environments in the future,” he explained.

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The sprawling insurance company also sought to allay fears the bags of flesh might have about the detached quadrupeds’ attachment to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics by launching the idea of ​​using them to aid first responders. in major disasters and other serious incidents, fulfilling one of the machine’s possible primary roles as a search and rescue tool.

“Farmers will explore applications that could help first responder organizations during scenarios such as post-event search and rescue, access areas to assess danger to first responders or others, and / or pre-inspections to assess the safety of anyone in the vicinity. , “It said.

The introduction of sexy new robots to the unglamorous world of insurance will certainly add an element of cutting-edge, high-tech and buccaneer excitement to the industry, suggesting that Farmers may soon be breaking free from the rigid constraints of its field. traditional, Crimson Permanent Insurance-style expertise. But it remains to be seen whether robots operate in the environments they are asked to trade.

While units like Spot can be useful in evaluating structures and properties, they will pose more of a problem than they are for hard-pressed appraisers if they get stuck, broken, or flooded and need to be retrieved whenever they are. they are sent after a disaster. situation. ®

Mildred Lasky

The author Mildred Lasky