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A robotic dog becomes part of Swinerton’s construction technology arsenal

Boston Dynamics, the robot’s creator, has about 100 machines in the field currently.

April 13, 2020 |
Meet Spot Dog: The robotic inspection dog for construction jobsites

This four-legged robot, whose gait resembles a dog's, is capturing construction data for several general contractors around the country. Images courtesy Swinerton


Swinerton, the national construction services provider, is among the GCs that are embracing construction technology is various ways.

It is using high-definition 3D scanning technology to provide clients with such benefits as time-stamping work with preserved historical data, minimizing client travel thanks to remote walk-through capabilities, and coordinating subcontractors with an eye toward minimizing change orders and errors.

The firm’s prefab and modular construction capabilities leverage technology to reduce construction costs by as much as 20% per project, improve quality and safety, and expedite a project’s completion.

And on a number of its jobsites, Swinerton has been testing Boston Dynamics’ quadruped robot, better known as Spot Dog, for walk-throughs to inspect progress (such as tracking the numbers of studs or electrical conduit installed daily), measure and report data points, create a digital twin, and compare as-built to BIM.


Meet Spot Dog: The robotic inspection dog for construction jobsites

The three-foot-tall yellow robot “is an incredibly capable machine,” says Eric Law, Swinerton’s senior director of technology and innovation, whom BD+C interviewed last week with Tristen Magallanes, the firm’s innovation analyst; and Brian Ringley, a construction technology manager with Boston Dynamics.

Swinerton has been testing Spot Dog for four months. It used the robot to track the interior work within a ground-up medical office building in Redwood City, Calif. (That robot has since been relocated to one of Swinerton’s other projects in Austin, Texas.) The robot was also at work at the Queen Emma Building in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Swinerton is reconstructing an office building to affordable apartments.

The robot in use in Honolulu, which can handle a payload of up to 30 lbs., was equipped with a laser scanner and 360-degree camera. The robot, explains Ringley, can be controlled directly or tele-operated from offsite. There’s also an “auto-walk” feature where the user takes the robot to where he or she wants it to go, and artificial intelligence lets the robot repeats that pattern and tasks.

A video of Spot Dog in action in Honolulu can be viewed here.


Spot Dog, standing in front of Swinerton's brand image.


Law notes that a robot is better suited for capturing repetitive data because humans “have a hard time walking the same path everyday.” Spot Dog is also capable of navigating uneven terrain, and can be programmed to avoid obstacles.

Boston Dynamics has about 100 of these robots in the field, confirms Ringley, all of them under leases that typically run from six to 12 months. He declined to discuss lease terms, except to say “it’s cheaper than leasing a car.”

Spot Dog was expected to complete its work at the Honolulu project sometime this month and be relocated to roam another Swinerton project.

Ringley says that Boston Dynamics is constantly tweaking its robots for better mobility, stability, and autonomy. Boston Dynamics is preparing to launch a 2.0 version of Spot Dog “soon,” he says, without disclosing any details.

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