Subscribe

Will robots become pets? Maybe, but your dog won't like it. (+video)

Robot dog Spot, created by Boston Dynamics, got in a tiff with a real terrier last week. Despite the setback, robot pets could be a new frontier. 

  • close
    Boston Dynamics robot confronted by a real dog
    Boston Dynamics/YouTube
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

The first meeting between a robot dog and a biological dog fell short of a fairy-tale love story.

Last week, Spot, a robot made by Boston Dynamics, met a small terrier in a parking lot. The exchange quickly became confrontational as the confused dog, Cosmo, began aggressively barking and posturing at the faux dog. It ended only after Spot made a retreat.

Despite the defeat, Spot is one of the most advanced robots capable of maneuvering through nearly any terrain. It was originally designed as part of a military project. Only one such robot is in civilian hands, according to HNGN.

Recommended: Despite sci-fi tropes, robots make better managers, study says

The encounter provided a humorous video, which has gained over a million views on YouTube, but seeing the robot dog and real dog side-by-side also raises questions about how robots will interact with humans and their capacity to act as pets in the future.

“Now you have a whole lot of cooperative robots that are safe to be around and can work with people. This is just the start,” Dr. Michael Gennert, director of Robotics Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, told The Christian Science Monitor.

The age of robots interacting with humans outside of laboratories and inside homes started with the Roomba, according to Dr, Gennert. The Roomba is a self-directed robotic disk that vacuums houses and is able to navigate around walls and obstacles by itself. It went onto the consumer market in 2002.

And although there are many obstacles that need to be overcome before commercialized robotics can evolve from Roombas to robotic dogs – like self-awareness, environmental understanding, and safety, the concept of a pet robot might be closer to reality than many suspect.

“Pets are a nice model to use. People respond to them well. We have a model of how they’ll work. And they’re viewed as inherently safe,” Gennert told the Monitor.

Scientists are already developing robots to capitalize on the animal model. A robot seal, known as the PARO robot, is widely used in Japan as a therapeutic companion for the elderly, aiding relaxation and lowering stress. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is also developing the PABI robot, a robotic penguin that is used as a comfort tool for autistic children.

“We’ll see the easier applications tackled first,” Gennert explained, in reference to the range of commercialized robots geared toward communication. “But over time we’ll see robots that are more physically engaged … in areas where people spend a lot of their time and might need some help.”

Spot, the robot dog seen in the video, was one of the later iterations of a project to develop a robot that could carry equipment for military personnel on missions. Despite improvements with each model, the program was shut down after the military decided the robots were too loud to be used in the field.

Other robot projects by Boston Dynamics have had more success, including the new generation of Atlas, a man-like robot in development. A recent video released by the company showed an Atlas robot placing boxes on shelves and responding to external obstacles, like being pushed down or having a box it was holding moved away.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK