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Boston Dynamics dog robot 'Spot' learns new tricks on BP oil rig

(Reuters) - Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot ‘Spot’ is learning new tricks.

Working on an oil rig operated by BP Plc BP.L nearly 190 miles (305 km) offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, the company is programming Spot to read gauges, look for corrosion, map out the facility and even sniff out methane on its Mad Dog rig.

Adam Ballard, BP’s facilities technology manager, said tasks performed by Spot will make the work on the rig safer by reducing the number of people. It also will free up personnel to do other work.

“Several hours a day, several operators will walk the facility; read gauges; listen for noise that doesn’t sound right; look out at the horizon for anomalies, boats that may not be caught on radar; look for sheens,” Ballard said.

“What we’re doing with Spot is really trying to replicate that observation piece,” Ballard said, adding that an operator could then review the information from a central location.

Spot also has an integrated gas sensor that is programmed to shut the robot down if it detects a methane leak.

“We believe a lot of that up-front, remote work preparation can be done with a remotely-controlled robot... being able to pan, tilt, zoom and really understand the entire area in real conditions, real time,” Ballard said.

Boston Dynamics does not release terms of its sales agreements with companies, but the Spot robot model can be purchased for $74,500 (£56,546).

BP hopes in the future to expand Spot’s data gathering capability to augment areas where humans are limited.

“We’ve got multispectral imaging that basically you can see many bands across that spectrum... to be able to see things that the human eye can’t see,” said Ballard.

Reporting by Catherine Koppel; editing by Diane Craft and Rosalba O’Brien

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