Pompeii to be patrolled by robot dog

Four-legged robot will crawl into small passages and corners to inspect them for damage

Lucy Thackray
Friday 08 April 2022 13:18 BST
<p>Spot onsite at Pompeii </p>

Spot onsite at Pompeii

The ancient Italian city of Pompeii is to be guarded by a robot dog, say managers at the Archaeological Park.

Mechanical dog Spot, created by Boston Dynamics, is being introduced as part of a wave of modernisation of the preserved Roman city.

The yellow hound will patrol the site looking for cracks, damage and signs of erosion on the streets of the town, which was wiped out by the explosion of the Vesuvius volcano in 79AD.

Spot is a four-legged robot designed to cross uneven terrain while capturing his surroundings with cameras and sensors - he can be controlled by a remote or programmed to follow a certain route.

Pompeii is synonymous with all things canine thanks to one of its best-preserved murals, which warns “Cave canem” or “Beware of the dog”.

Now the decidedly 21st-century 25kg robot will patrol the Archaeological Park, sniffing out damaged corners for restorers to repair.

He can slip down narrow passages and crawl into small nooks on his mission to help preserve the site. Boston Dynamics put the robots on sale in 2020, with around 100 now “working” in surveillance on sites like SpaceX’s Boca Raton base.

One of his main missions will be investigating the “tombaroli” or tomb raiders, thieves who get in and out of the site using secret tunnels. Several artifacts have been stolen from the site in recent years.

Pompeii’s wider tech drive comes after a 2013 warning from Unesco that the World Heritage Site was falling into disrepair.

Around 2.8 million tourists typically visit the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples, each year.

“A robot like Spot is able to inspect places, even small ones, in complete safety, acquiring and recording data useful for the study and design of conservation measures,” said a statement from the Archaeological Park.

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