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Sit, Robot. Mechatronic metal pooches FTW.

February 1, 2018

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Would you welcome a robot dog into your home? Do you wonder what else a robot animal might (be made to) do? We do, too. Here’s the second of our Furry Futures pieces, in which human’s best friend gets a mechatronics makeover.

Meet Spot
Spot can run, hop and open doors, and, in time, probably also kill on command. Spot is a system of springs, electrodes, metal and microchips, an autonomous machine that mimics a living, breathing, loving canine. Could you love a robot dog with mechanical paws?

 

Robots are hard; humans are softies
Robots have no hearts for the time being, yet those that mimic live, loving creatures like dogs or people, pull at our heartstrings.

and put fear into them and while they started out creepy and clumsy

they’re getting really good

and it doesn’t even have to be a real robot

It’s difficult to resist the characteristic wag of the electric tail even if you know there’s no known life in it. Try not to feel sorry for this poor piece of metal.

and behold a synthetic prairie dog entirely fooling his adopted wild family.

The capacity for empathy at both ends of the dog-and-human deal is what makes the human-canine bond so brilliant. It also leaves us open to manipulation when the canine is a can of electrodes and code, perhaps not by robots just yet, but certainly by their makers.

And that’s okay if it’s positive manipulation – it’s perfectly natural! Domestic dogs evolved to contribute to human well-being as a way of ensuring their place in a changing world. They’re nice to us and we feed, house and adore them. But they get lonely if left without company (don’t!) and need to be fed at certain times (there’s an app for that ). Furry bots don’t. No poop scooping! No 4am wakeup calls. If robots are making decent companions to the aged, could robot dogs be our new best friend? Could Frodo 2.0 replace your real-life pooch?

Maybe they aren’t quite the watchdog you want, but robot dogs like Spot are more real than Robo-Dog and could offer companionship of a sort.

Some real dogs are wary.

We think it’s when AI integrates into robotics and its technology begins to evolve of its own accord that the question really gets interesting. Wouldn’t it be weird if an AI dog did what the discontinued AI Twitter handle did? Dogs are a reflection of their humans, after all. We already have robot birds, scorpions, spiders, fish, salamanders, kangaroos and cheetahs (that look like a dog and sound like a fly). It’s the intelligent hybrids we’re waiting for. When robot dogs acquire drone functionality, they’re going to fly off the supermarket shelves and into our hearts. And then take over the world? Artificial intelligence is on its way in a real way, and we want to live in peace with the future, so maybe don’t name your robot dog Tay, K?

In the meantime, the odds are still stacked in favour of living loved ones… who can give you warm cuddles and soulful stares…

(just tolerate the copy machine; it has big dreams)

Sources

  • https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/24/tay-microsofts-ai-chatbot-gets-a-crash-course-in-racism-from-twitterhttps://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/the-future-of-pets/419133/
  • https://www.networkworld.com/article/3193821/artificial-intelligence/why-racist-ai-bots-are-our-fault.html
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO4In7d6X-chttps://www.wired.com/story/companion-robots-are-here/

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