The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Those robot dogs sure are tempting toys, ain't they? But how much fun can these kid-targeted toys be, right out of the box? See them fetch, hear them bark--whoop dee doo.

No, to get a real bitchin' experience out of these mechanized mutts, you have to pull out the toolbox and get to work. The result will be something like Yale University's Feral Robotic Dogs project. Amped-up robo-Rovers!

To hear Professor Natalie Jeremijenko tell it, these dogs were hacked to serve a social purpose:

The robotic dogs' "brains" are upgraded and their "noses" programmed to pick up the scent of common volatile organic compounds -- such as paint thinners or dry cleaning fluids -- or more dangerous toxins. They also are built to navigate a variety of terrains.

In addition, cameras are placed in the dogs' hindquarters to let researchers observe their interaction with handlers.

Doggie crotch cams? I question the scientific merit of that. I think these Yalies just decided to have some fun with robots, and came up with a justifying purpose for it later.

Jeremijenko is asking for donations of unwanted robodogs. If she wants to pay for the shipping, I'll gladly send her my Tekno the Robotic Puppy, an impulse buy that's been sitting in my closet for years now.