Boston Dynamics’ four-legged Spot robot can autonomously follow a human leader through a construction site using software from Trimble and Piaggio Fast Forward. The robot can then retrace the original route and adapt on its own as surroundings change.



Many types of robots are controlled via joystick in person or from a remote location, but the new concept gives a robot more autonomy.

Engineers from PFF developed the smart following technology for its “gita” robot — a trailing robot designed to carry up to 40 pounds of cargo or luggage — and adapted the software to work in a stand-alone module called PFFtag, which can be integrated onto other machines or robots.

With the module attached, pressing a button activates a sensor array that pairs to a leader who then leads Spot or another robot through a construction jobsite. Trimble and PFF conducted testing using a Spot robot equipped with Trimble laser scanning and PFFtag technology at one of its customer’s sites in Colorado over the course of two months.

Spot has been marketed to construction and tested as a payload for laser scanning technology for more than a year — and has since become commercially available. In November 2019, Hensel Phelps piloted Spot on the San Francisco International Airport’s Harvey Milk Terminal 1 project.

Construction software company Holobuilder developed the SpotWalk app, which sends Spot along predetermined routes to perform image capturing as a means of recording jobsite progress.