March 18, 2021

SpotTrimblePiaggio400x275Piaggio Fast Forward, which develops smart following technology, has collaborated with Trimble to provide a proof-of-concept demonstration that would enable robots and machines to follow humans and other machines in industrial applications.

The companies integrated a patent-pending PFFtag smart following module prototype, developed by Piaggio, onto a Boston Dynamics Spot robot controlled by Trimble’s advanced positioning technology. The module eliminates the need to solely control the Spot robot via joystick. The companies said the POC is one of the many robots and autonomous vehicles that Trimble provides solutions for, and could apply to other industries, such as construction, mining, agriculture, and logistics.

“Most robotics companies look at the world as a world of obstacles,” said Greg Lynn, CEO of Piaggio Fast Foward. “At PFF, we adopted the opposite approach and this philosophy has fueled our research of how humans and robots physically move through space. We design behaviors that understand people and help automate tasks so you don’t have to build complicated hardware. Working with Trimble to boost the process of replacing remote-controlled robots traveling on predetermined paths in mapped environments enable yet another step in the ultimate goal of providing safe and intuitive operations of machines in industrial environments. Dynamic following technology is one step closer to kicking the doors open to further implementation – from power tools to farming equipment to even automated vehicles.”



While many robots, including Spot, are currently controlled by joysticks operated in person or via telepresence from a remote location, operators can now leverage PFF’s exclusive smart following technology that allows humans to lead other robots and machines, providing a larger range of navigation methods – remote control, autonomous, and now, following, the company said. Engineers from PFF have componentized the technology developed for the company’s gita robot into a stand-alone module called PFFtag, which can be integrated on other machines or robots.

The tag enables external partners to leverage its exclusive algorithms and allow their software to communicate with PFF’s software. This allows a human to control the robot via pairing and improves the robot’s ability to sense direction and velocity as it follows the leader. A button push activates a fused sensor array that pairs to a leader, who navigates Spot or another robot or machine. 

“Through its collaboration with Trimble, Piaggio Fast Forward once again demonstrates its pioneering vocation and ceaseless research into new forms of interaction between human beings and robots, where people and their mobility needs are the foundation for our mission,” said Michele Colaninno, founder and chairman of PFF. 

“The follow-me technology by PFF provides an intuitive user experience and opens the door to collaborative robots that can augment the human workforce,” said Aviad Almagor, division vice president at Trimble. “Like a 21st-century Sancho Panza, robots with PFFtag may have the future ability to assist construction professionals in their daily workflow, carry heavy equipment, improve efficiency and enhance worker safety.”

For more details, visit either the Piaggio Fast Forward or Trimble websites.