Meet the robot dog looking to replace man's best friend

Is this the ulti-mutt pet?
Is this the ulti-mutt pet? Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Sabrina Fearon-Melville, Rosie Frost + AFP
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The robotic pooch is capable of 'hearing' and 'seeing' by using AI to sense its environment.


Could this be the future of pet ownership? The designers of 'AlphaDog' certainly think so.

Scientists in China have developed a high tech robotic dog that can move at a speed of 15 kilometres per hour. The creators of the robot dog, tech company Weilen, say that it is the fastest on the market.

It uses artificial intelligence (AI) tech to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ its environment meaning it could have applications outside of simply being a pet that won’t make a mess on your carpet.

“It has the visual ability and sensors, so it can sense the surrounding environment. It can predict the friction and height of the ground to adjust its height, adjust the stride frequency, and adapt to the environment,” says Ma Jie, chief technology officer of Weilan.

Putting 5G to use

The developers say that the digital four-legged friend could help deliver packages, serve in restaurants and even provide support for the visually impaired. It is connected using 5G technology that allows the robot to operate autonomously.

“To help the disabled is an important developing direction for us,” Ma adds. “When the robot dog has the function of vision, hearing and dialogue too, it can easily interact with disabled people and lead them to the supermarket or the bus.”

Ma studied how to reinforce actions through reward or punishment at the University of Oxford to ensure that the dog’s AI mimics canine habits. Like Boston Dynamics’ Spot, the AlphaDog has four metal legs that make it more stable than a real dog - even when kicked.

The AlphaDog is already on sale in China and despite costing 16,000 yuan (€2050) the company has already received more than 1800 orders. Future software updates could add barking, ‘personalities’ and even human voices that would allow people to have a conversation with their pet.

Click the video above to see AlphaDog in action.

Video editor • Sabrina Fearon Melville

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