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ITMO and Merklebot Joint Project Provides Remote Access to Boston Dynamics Robot

Specialists from ITMO University and MerkleBot have developed the Spot SDK Educational Program, which allows users from anywhere in the world to access Spot – a “robot dog” from Boston Dynamics – and use it to hone their programming and robotics skills. The service provides a remote connection to Spot, online sessions with experts, and a set of online classes on how to program the robot.

Image credit: ITMO University

The new service allows specialists to make use of a Spot located at the MerkleBot lab in Silicon Valley. Interactions with Spot are done via a special interface provided by Boston Dynamics. Object interaction, path planning, 3D mapping, and speed control are all features available through the Spot API. The software can also be used to write and test new code for the robot. Every step of working with Spot is described in detail in online lessons prepared by ITMO engineers.

“We already have experience providing remote access to complex robots, including drones. Now, developers from all over the world will have the opportunity to practice on a robot developed by Boston Dynamics, a world leader in the robotics market. After completing certain tasks, users will receive certificates that describe their entire chain of actions with Spot. This way, employers can assess the level of training of the candidates,” notes Alexandr Kapitonov, dean of the Faculty of Infocommunication Technologies and one of the development team’s members.

The service’s creators are confident that it will help universities keep up with market leaders in the field. Without such a tool, acquiring the necessary equipment, installing it, and learning how to work with it can take years. And in all that time, the technology might already become obsolete. The new service solves that issue and provides a quicker and more effective way to become familiar with new tools. ITMO University already uses it as part of the curriculum in educational programs on robotics and programming. For instance, any student who offers an innovative solution on extra assignments can receive an access token to rent Spot.

“By working with Spot, I’ve mastered the basics of its SDK. The site offers lessons and relevant documents and allows you to rent the robot for short periods. Experts at online sessions respond to questions and monitor the robot’s performance. I’m blown away by this experience. This was a great chance to learn what awaits us in the future and learn to use this kind of equipment despite only being in my first year at university,” says Vladislav Gaas, a Bachelor’s student in robotics and artificial intelligence at ITMO University.

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