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The Ulti-mutt Pet? Chinese Tech Company Develops Robo-dogs

It’s fast, follows commands, and leaves no unpleasant surprises on the floor-Meet AlphaDog, a robotic response to China’s two fast-growing loves: pets and technology.

High-tech hounds use sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to “listen” and “see” the environment. You can also go for a walk.





High-tech hounds can use sensors and AI to “listen” and “see” the environment. You can also go for a walk.
AFP / WANG ZHAO

“It’s very similar to a real dog,” says Ma Jie, chief technology officer of Weilan, the company behind the product.

Nanjing-based creators say robot dogs, which move at speeds of about 15 km / h (9 mph) and spin on the fly like excited puppies, are the fastest on the market.

Ma explains that it is more stable than a real dog with four metal legs. One of his team kicks quickly to prove the point.



In the first month of sale, over 1,800 Alpha Dogs ran off the shelves, despite the high price tag of 16,000 yuan ($ 2,400).


In the first month of sale, over 1,800 Alpha Dogs ran off the shelves, despite the high price tag of 16,000 yuan ($ 2,400).
AFP / WANG ZHAO

“You can predict the friction and height of the ground, adjust its height, adjust your stride length, and adapt to your environment,” he said as the robot slowly moved up the stairs. Talks to AFP.

Its creator uses 5G technology, ultra-fast internet speed with immediate reaction time to make the robot operate autonomously.



With four metal legs, it's more stable than a real dog


With four metal legs, it’s more stable than a real dog
AFP / WANG ZHAO

Ma states that he studied reinforcement learning (a study of how to enhance behavior through rewards or punishment) at Oxford University and used that knowledge to inform AI dogs how to mimic dog habits.

Dog ownership has been banned under the leadership of Communist Chinese founder Mao Zedong, but has been dramatically booming ever since.

And in the first month of sale, over 1,800 Alpha Dogs ran off the shelves, despite the high price tag of 16,000 yuan ($ 2,400).



Future software updates will include dog


Future software updates will include dog “bark”
AFP / WANG ZHAO

“Orders come primarily from computer developers, tech geeks, and kids, and they seem to really like it,” Ma said.

Beijing has made huge investments in robotics and AI as China seeks to improve its workforce.

Robots have already been used to deliver parcels, serve restaurants, provide information at train stations, and even collect throat swabs for Covid-19 tests.

Weilan’s workshop features young tech enthusiasts filled with pencil design sketches and obstacle routes in the middle of the stairs and slopes for the machine to harden in the test.

The developers there hope that the future use of their four-legged friends will benefit the visually impaired.

“Helping people with disabilities is an important development direction for us,” says Ma. “Robot dogs also have visual, auditory, and interactive capabilities that make it easy to interact with people with disabilities and take them to supermarkets and buses.”

Future software updates will include a dog “bark”. In addition, human voices may be added to allow conversations between pets and their owners.

There are also larger “enterprise” dog models designed for industrial inspection of machines and pipes.

The next generation of pet-shaped AlphaDog can also introduce “individuality” into the dog’s toolkit to make it even more dog-like and have a slightly shorter battery life.



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