Called Spot, this friendly animal with a lanky gait is not even afraid of the torrential rains that hit Italy this week. The children, who observe it with curiosity, already seem to adore it and prefer it to the remains of ancient Rome.
His goal ? “Monitoring and preserving the site, in particular the underground structures, where the security conditions are not met to bring in (staff, editor’s note), as in the many very narrow and dangerous tunnels of the site”, proudly explains to the AFP the director of the site, the German Gabriel Zuchtriegel.
The archaeological site houses the remains of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, south of Naples, buried during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It is full of tunnels or cavities that are not easy to access, which makes the help of the small Spot in black and yellow colors very valuable.
The size of a Golden Retriever, it is controlled remotely using a tablet, as shown by Valerio Brunelli, an employee of Leica Geosystem, the company that manages the robot’s exploration missions inside Pompeii.
Placed a few meters behind Spot, its operator can direct it anywhere on the site, even if Spot is able to avoid obstacles on its own. It is nevertheless necessary to remain attentive when he walks: “Nobody wants to receive his 70 kilos on the foot”, jokes Mr. Brunelli.
– 70,000 euros –
“Spot is a concentrate of technology that makes it capable of exploring very complicated places, such as those found here. Its interest increases when it is equipped with other sensors, such as the Leica BLK2FLY, a scanner (similar to a drone, editor’s note) which can record its environment in 3D”, he underlines.
This scanner makes it possible to obtain site plans in three dimensions and in real time. Spot, for example, was used to explore an old tunnel two kilometers long, whose stale air and risk of collapse make it too dangerous for human exploration.
“I am very confident that Pompeii will acquire it, it is a leap into the future for a millennial site”, wants to believe Mr. Brunelli.
Because at this stage, even if he has already become the mascot of tourists, Spot has only won a CDD. “In the technology sector, there are such rapid changes that sometimes buying is not so profitable. We still have to make a decision”, tempers the director of Pompeii.
“Spot is not going to replace people, that’s not the goal. This type of instrument simply wants to facilitate the work of the men and women who work here,” he adds.
Spot’s technology was developed by the American company Boston Dynamics, which specializes in robotics, particularly military. The price of Spot amounts to some 70,000 euros, a watchdog which is therefore not within everyone’s reach.