Who killed the robot dog?

George Jetson did did not want his family to adopt a dog. For the patriarch of the future family in 1960s cartoons The Jetsons, the apartment that lived in the age of flying cars and sky cities wasn’t compatible with an animal that needed regular walking and grooming, so instead he bought an electronic dog named ‘Lectronimo, don’t need to feed and even attack thieves. In a contest between Astro — essentially the future Scooby-Doo — and the robotic dog, Lectronimo outperformed all of the classic canine tasks, but with no personality. The machine ends with a bunch of bizarre devices, a story that amuses both the Jetsons and the audience. Robots are not role models, they are silly.

That’s how we’ve imagined the robot dog, and anthropomorphic animals in general, for much of the 20th century, according to Jay Telotte, professor emeritus of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. Disney’s 1927 cartoons “Mechanical cow” Imagine a robotic cow on wheels with a broom to skate her tail around delivering milk to animal friends. The worst that can happen is that your mechanical farm could burn down, like in a 1930s cartoon. “Technoracket,” but even then, robotic animals pose no real threat to their biological counterparts. In fact, many of the ‘animal’ images on film and television over the years have been in cartoons and comic books, says Telotte, where “the laughter they generate often warrants with us that they’re not really dangerous.” The same thing has happened to most of the countless robot dogs in pop culture over the years, from Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, to a series of named cyborg dogs. K9 in Dr. Who.

However, our nearly 100-year romance with the robot dog has come to an end. It seems like every month Boston Dynamics releases another dance video of their SPOT robot, and the media reacts with initial fear, then trepidation, and finally terror editorials. night about our future under brutal rule of the robot lord. While Boston Dynamics strictly forbids their dogs from being turned into weapons, Ghost Robotics’ SPUR is currently being tested at various Air Force bases (with a variety of potentially adorable attachments) and Chinese company Xiaomi hope to cut SPOT much cheaper and somehow more horrible Cyberdog. All of which is to say, the robotic dog as it was once – the symbol of a fun, high-tech future with an amazingly social, artificial life – is dead. How do we get here? Who killed the robot dog?

We quadrupled Robotic dogs are often referred to as descendants of a long line of machines, historically known as automata. One of the earliest examples of such self-propelled machines is “duck goes to the toilet, ” Created by French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson nearly 300 years ago, in 1739. This mechanical duck-apparently eats only tiny seeds, pauses, and then rapidly excretes the already-digested grain. digestion at the other end – along with many other automobiles of the era, were “philosophical experiments, attempts to discern which aspects of living things could be reproduced in machines, and to what extent to what extent, and what can such reconstructions reveal about their natural objects,” writes Historian at Stanford Jessica Riskin.

Of course, the defecating duck is an extremely monstrous and gross scam, pre-loaded with faeces-like substances. But still, the preoccupation with determining which aspects of life were purely mechanical was the dominant intellectual preoccupation of the time, and even inspired the use of lightweight materials. , as soft as leather in making another kind of biological model: prosthetics, which had previously been made of metal. Even today, biologists build robotic models of their animal subjects to better understand how they move. Like many of its mechanical brethren, much of a robot dog’s life is an exercise in recreating beloved pets, maybe even subconsciously, to learn which side of the organism just mechanical and which aspect is organic. A robot dog must look and act like a dog, but what really makes a dog a dog?

The American manufacturing company Westinghouse probably debuted its first electric dog, Sparko, at the 1940 World’s Fair in New York. This 65-pound metal pooch was once the companion of the company’s electric man, Elektro. (Terms robot The most interesting thing about both of these advertising robots is their seemingly autonomous abilities: The light stimuli that set their action sequence are, in fact, very effectively, apparently, Sparko’s sensors. reacted to the lights of a passing car, causing it accelerate into oncoming traffic. As part of a campaign to help sell washing machines, Sparko and Elektro represent Westinghouse’s engineering prowess, but they are also among the first attempts to bring science fiction to life and lay the groundwork for a The imaginary future is filled with robot companionship. The idea that robots can also be delightful companions has persisted throughout the 20th century.

When AIBO – the prototype robotic dog created by Sony – first appeared in the early 2000s, it was artificial intelligence that made it extraordinary. Advertisement for the second generation AIBO promises “intelligent entertainment” that mimics free will with personality. AIBO’s ability to learn makes each dog at least somewhat unique, making them easier to see as special and more likable. It’s their AI that makes them look like a dog: playful, curious, sometimes disobedient. When I, 10 years old, walked into FAO Schwarz in New York in 2001 and watched AIBOs onscreen with little pink balls overhead, something about these little creations ripped my heart out — despite the uncontrollable rift between me and the machine, I still want to try to know it, to understand it. I want to love a robot dog.


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