Spot in Pompei

Boston Dynamics’s Spot robot, the familiar dog-like robot that has done jobs from enforcing social distancing in Singapore to patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, has added another job to its resume.

The Spot robot, known for its versatility and maneuverability, is now helping workers in Pompei search for artifacts that are buried in the ash. The robot has been programmed to identify different types of objects at various depths within the ash and dirt.


The ancient city of Pompei was buried in 79 AD by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The volcano covered the city in ash and lava, stopping people and animals in their tracks.

While the city is a World Heritage site, it was threatened in previous years because the Italian government wasn’t preserving its treasures. Tomb robbers tunneled into the city to loot the archaeological site for artifacts. In the past few years, the government has stepped up their game, using a variety of technologies to guard the site and to excavate further.

This year’s excavations have yielded a number of interesting discoveries, including Roman coins, jewelry, and ceramics. Spot is responsible for locating these items and alerting archaeologists as they are found. Spot’s sophisticated sensors make it well suited to this task. Spot walks on four legs, which give it both stability and agility. It can navigate difficult terrain and move around obstacles while keeping its balance. Spot can also be used to assist with security patrols.


Spot has been trained to run a 3D laser scanner, which creates maps of the hazards it discovers. Its human handlers can then respond to the concerns.

While Spot has gotten some bad press on some of its assignments — for example, helping with police surveillance in New York City — this one should be popular. Spot is helping to preserve ancient artifacts and to uncover new facts about Pompei.

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