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Mr. President, did you consider a robot dog?

By / April 13, 2009

Forget Bo. What about Aibo, the robot dog from Sony?

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Have you met Bo? The cute pooch had his mug and florescent lei in just about every American newspaper this weekend as news leaked that President Obama had finally decided on a First Dog. The 6-month-old Portuguese water hound, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy, will arrive at the White House on Tuesday.

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But, Mr. President, did you consider a roBo?

Robotic animals have long been a sci-fi dream and a benchmark for modern mechanics. Several companies have tinkered with android pooches. No one's quite nailed it. But here's a quick video tour of man's closest attempts at recreating our best friend.

The good: Shaggy D
What makes this "biomechanical wonderdog" tick is a secret. "I promised the owner that I wouldn't reveal how it works," says Matt Brady, a puppeteer with AnimatronicBear.com, who was actually at the White House today. He's part of the entertainment for the annual Easter festivities. "The dog has some wires and cables, but I can't tell you much more than that." We'll let the video speak for itself:

The bad: Wrex the Dawg
Wrex is a goofy perversion of what a child from the 1950s might daydream. The plastic pup plays up its bad-dog persona. Here's the marketing pitch from robotics company WowWee: "Built from discarded mechanical and electrical parts, RS Wrex the Dawg is the ultimate lovable 'crosswired' pooch, despite a few loose nuts and bolts!" The toy wipes its rump on the floor, lifts a leg to "water" the plants, and barks in several annoying ways. Perfect for boys – not so much for parents.

The ugly: Big Dog
This junkyard dog is both the least attractive and most impressive from the list. Built for the military, the robotic quadruped "runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, and carries a 340 lb load," according to makers Boston Dynamics.

For more mechanical mutts, check out Wikipedia's surprisingly comprehensive entry on robot dogs. The list has everything from Poo-chi (from the makers of Furby) to Preston (from Wallace and Gromit).

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