New ‘Robodog’ with Crazily Emotive Eyes Learns How to Behave

We’ve all seen and been frightened of the robot “dogs” developed by Boston Dynamics over the past couple of years — if you haven’t, please check them out here and report back to us after you build your bunker. But even though the Boston Dynamics quadrupeds are surreal when it comes to their fluid locomotion, they aren’t at all expressive. That is not the case, however, with Astro the trainable robodog and its highly emotive digital eyes.

The clip of Astro the robodog, which comes via Futurism, shows off the machine’s ability to sit, stand, stop, and walk all based on verbal commands. Based on the look and way Astro’s legs move, the researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory (MPCR) who built Astro were probably influenced by Spot and SpotMini from Boston Dynamics. But that face embedded with bizarrely human-like digital eyes is, to our knowledge, a new development in the evolution of realistic robot canines.

Astro’s eyes — which look consistently sullen in this clip — are only the tip of the robot-evolution iceberg here. In a release about the pup put up on FAU’s website, it’s noted that machine learning is going to play a big role in making Astro capable of figuring out how to do an astounding array of tasks. Check out this flex:

“Equipped with sensors, high-tech radar imaging, cameras and a directional microphone, this 100-pound super robot is still a ‘puppy-in-training.’ Just like a regular dog, he responds to commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘stand’ and ‘lie down.’ Eventually, he will be able to understand and respond to hand signals, detect different colors, comprehend many languages, coordinate his efforts with drones, distinguish human faces, and even recognize other dogs.”

According to the FAU post, Astro will utilize these abilities to assist police and the military in detecting guns and explosives, provide guidance for the visually impaired, offer medical diagnostic monitoring, and serve as a first responder for search and rescue missions.

In regards to how exactly Astro is able to pull all of this off, that’s all about its computerized “brain” that uses neural nets and big data to learn about its environment and how it should behave as an agent in said environment. And if “brain” seems like an exaggeration for what could be considered a complex set of algorithms, please note that Astro has four teraflops of compute power. That translates to four trillion computations a second. Yeah, we’re definitely headed for “Metalhead.”


What do you think about Astro? Would you ever replace your real dog with a robot one? Let us know in the comments before running for your life!

Images: Florida Atlantic University 

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