This quadruped robot has decidedly reserve, and now puts its talents at the service of the protection of heritage in Pompei.
The more time passes, the more Spot, the impressive robot dog from Boston Dynamics, is used for varied and complex tasks. Thanks to a press release spotted by SciencePost, we learn that he will now put himself at the service of heritage on one of the most important and iconic historical sites on the planet: the ruins of Pompeii.
This ruined Roman city, a jewel of Italian cultural heritage, is famous for the cataclysmic circumstances that led to its fall. Indeed, the city is located at the foot of Vesuvius. It is a volcano known for its violent pyroclastic clouds, clusters of gas and superheated fine particles which descend the sides at more than 200 km/h during certain eruptions.
In the year 49, the city thus found itself taken unexpectedly by this torrent of overheated volcanic material. A good part of the population and the infrastructure thus found themselves petrified almost instantly by this cloud; a real disaster for the inhabitants of the time.
But this event also offered archaeologists an unparalleled window into the daily life of the Romans of the time. Pompeii is a first-class archaeological site full of relics and rare and precious remains for scientists… and unfortunately also for collectors, especially the less scrupulous.
A prime target for looters
Indeed, since science popularizers presented the drama Pompeii to the general public, many observers fell in love with this oh so hard-hitting story. And among them, there are also lawless looters who will stop at nothing to approach it, even if it means vandalizing this invaluable site in order to display a piece of history in their living room.
Remains of inestimable historical value have therefore disappeared from the site over the years. And these aren’t just isolated artifacts; some even go so far as to take away pieces of the structure, with all that this implies for the overall integrity of the buildings. “Often the security conditions in the looters’ tunnels are extremely precarious”, explain the administrators of the site.
In a long article devoted to the excavations, the site The Good Life recalls that the House of the Gladiators, one of the most iconic buildings in the city, collapsed in 2006 after being looted numerous times. “That day, Pompeii became the symbol of a country unable to protect its extraordinary heritage”, Massimo Osanna, general director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park in an interview with the site.
A cyber-Cerberus at the service of History
And that’s where Spot comes in. Because despite all the efforts of the local authorities to protect the site, ensuring its defense is not an easy thing. Since this is a historic site, it obviously does not have modern monitoring infrastructure; installing an army of fixed cameras would be a sacrilege incompatible with its historical prestige and its scientific value.
To support its humans, the teams in charge of protecting the site have therefore relied on technological companions. They started by calling on the Leica BLK2FLY. This drone is a gem of technology, capable of performing 3D scans of the terrain from the sky. It is therefore a leading ally that has already enabled teams to locate certain tunnels dug by looters.
But as useful as it is, a flying platform also has certain limitations. And it is precisely to fill this hole in the racket and manage ground operations that they called on Boston Dynamics. He assists the teams in charge of protecting the site by carrying out regular rounds and alerting them immediately if anything has changed since his previous visit.
He also takes the opportunity to collect data in the field. This data will also be used to improve the accuracy of the readings taken by the BLK2FLY, which in turn can provide more detailed mapping to Spot. This powerful duo is therefore capable of taking on a real extensive surveillance routine on its own.
The teams in charge of the protection of the archaeological park are hopeful that these machines will finally allow the petrified Romans of Pompeii to get back the tranquility they deserve, far from the trickster hands of looters dispatched by unscrupulous art lovers.