Robodog ‘Astro’ can respond to commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘lie down’

Who is a good boy? Black Mirror-like robodog ‘Astro’ responds to commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘lie down’ and could one day recognise multiple languages

  • The canine robot is being developed by experts at the Florida Atlantic University
  • Astro is powered by an artificial intelligence system that can learn new tricks
  • More than a dozen sensors will enable the mechanical mutt to explore its world
  • Astro will work with security forces, or as an emergence responder or guide dog

With his 3-D printed doberman-like head, robot dog Astro may look like something out of a Black Mirror episode — but this clever canine may be our new best friend.   

Powered by artificial intelligence technology, the metallic mutt can presently respond to simple commands like ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘lie down’.

However, by training him in thousands of different scenarios, this robot dog is capable of learning new tricks.

His developers expect that he will eventually be able to recognise different languages, hand signals, people and other dogs — and even team up with drones.

Astro is intended to help security forces sniff out prohibited items and first responders scour disaster sites — but he might even find work as a guide dog. 

With his 3-D printed doberman-like head, robot dog Astro may look like something out of a Black Mirror episode — but this clever canine may be our new best friend

WHAT IS ASTRO? 

Astro is a clever robotic dog being  developed at the Florida Atlantic University using deep learning and artificial intelligence technology.

Even though he weighs in at 100 lbs, Astro is still learning — just like a real-life puppy. 

Astro is equipped with more than a dozen different sensors.

These include cameras, a directional microphone, gas sensors and even radar imaging.

His bounding legs let him navigate even rough terrains. 

His robotic brain is powered by multiple Nvidia Jetson TX2 graphics processing units.

These let Astro perform around four trillion computations every second.

Astro has been designed to work with security forces, or as an emergence responder or guide dog.

Astro is being developed by researchers from the Florida Atlantic University’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory using deep learning and artificial intelligence technology.

While he is not the only mechanical dog under development, Astro is the only one to have a realistic-looking, Doberman pinscher-style head containing a computer brain.

Instead of being programmed in advance, Astro will learn just like a real puppy, with his simulated brain — a so-called deep neural network — being training by thousands of different experiences so he can perform various useful, human-like tasks.

‘Astro is inspired by the human brain and he has come to life through machine learning and artificial intelligence,’ said Ata Sarajedini, who is the dean of science at the Florida Atlantic University.

These, he added, are ‘proving to be an invaluable resource in helping to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.’ 

Astro is equipped with more than a dozen different sensors with which to interact with his environment in real-time — including cameras, a directional microphone, gas sensors and radar imaging — and can navigate across even rough terrains.

All these sensory inputs will be fed into Astro’s neural network — with his robotic brain powered by multiple Nvidia Jetson TX2 graphics processing units, which will allow the clever dog to perform around four trillion computations every second.

At present, just like a real dog, the 100 lbs (45 kg) robot responds to various spoken commands, including ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘lie down’.

Powered by artificial intelligence technology, the metallic mutt can presently respond to simple commands like ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘lie down’

However, the researchers report that Astro will eventually understand various languages, distinguish different colours and human faces, be able to interpret and respond to hand signals and co-ordinate his activities with compatible drones.

Astro will even be able to recognise other dogs and respond to dangerous situations to keep his human counterparts safe.

Working as an information scout, Astro has been designed with the aim that he will assist military, police and security personnel detect explosives, firearms and gun powder residue.

By training him in thousands of different scenarios, Astro is capable of learning new tricks. His robotic brain is powered by multiple Nvidia Jetson TX2 graphics processing units, which will allow the clever dog to perform around four trillion computations every second

In these roles, Astro’s gas sensors will allow him to smell the air and detect any foreign substances, hear distress calls that human ears cannot pick up and also refer to a database of thousands of recognisable faces. 

This robotic dog will be capable of learning new tricks, however, and will also be programmable to work as a service dog for the visually impaired, or to monitor a person’s vital signs.

In addition, researchers are also training Astro to act as a first responder for search and rescue missions — such as in the wake of hurricanes — as well as to support military manoeuvres.

His developers expect that he will eventually be able to recognise different languages, hand signals, people and other dogs — and even team up with drones

Astro is intended to help security forces sniff out prohibited items and first responders scour disaster sites — but he might even find work as a guide dog

‘Our Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics laboratory team was sought out by Drone Data’s Astro Robotics group because of their extensive expertise in cognitive neuroscience,’ said Dr Sarajedini.

This experience, he added, includes ‘behavioural, neurophysiological and embedded computational approaches to studying the brain.’

Astro is being developed at the Florida Atlantic University’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory using deep learning and artificial intelligence technology

Instead of being programmed in advance, Astro will learn just like a real puppy, with his simulated brain — a so-called deep neural network — being training by thousands of different experiences so he can perform various useful, human-like tasks

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