Can a pet robot help on your job site?

By Jenny LescohierMarch 19, 2021

The companies have integrated a patent-pending PFFtag smart following module prototype onto a Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot platform

Will you have a robot following you around the job site sometime soon? The answer might be yes, and you might actually like it.

Piaggio Fast Forward (PFF), a leader in smart following technology and subsidiary of the Piaggio Group, and Trimble have announced a proof-of-concept collaboration to enable robots and machines to follow humans and other machines in industrial applications.

Watch the technology in action here.

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.

“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. “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.”

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. 

“We design behaviors that understand people and help automate tasks so you don’t have to build complicated hardware,” said Greg Lynn, PFF’s chief executive officer, noting the new technology aims to replace remote-controlled robots traveling on predetermined paths in mapped environments with a more intuitive alternative.

“Dynamic following technology is one step closer to kicking the doors open to further implementation - from power tools to farming equipment to even automated vehicles,” Lynn said.

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. There is no special training or joystick, and no app or tablet. 

“Robots are a growing presence in our lives, both private and professional, helping to make human activities less burdensome and more efficient,” said Michele Colaninno, founder and chairman of Piaggio Fast Forward. “When technology and robotics are put at people’s service, I believe they can play a significant role in transforming individual mobility and re-defining workplaces and urban environments to make them more sustainable and people-friendly, and so help create a better future.”

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