Nobody really needs a robot dog. We’ve got plenty of real dogs; look around they’re everywhere. The US military are working on some large dog like robots (not designed to specifically look like dogs, the only similarity is that they have four legs,) these ‘dogs’ are designed to carry heavy weights over rough terrain, therefore giving support to ground troops. But what I really mean are the small silver plastic robot dogs that can’t carry heavy loads, and probably only function as a good way of tripping somebody over. But we seem to have plenty of them if the Internet is any thing to go on. And I believe its because the Japanese really want robot dogs. I mean they really want them.
And as I began designing the images I’m showing today, it became more apparent just how much they really want them.
I remember in the late seventies and early eighties experts sagely nodding and saying that there won’t really be humanoid robots. Because robots don’t need to be humanoid, they can look like anything, like a great big arm swivelling about while it welds a car together or a computer. There see, a computer doesn’t look like a person does it? No, it’s just a box you big silly! No arms, no legs, no eyes; just a big number crunching television in the corner. These experts obviously hadn't counted on the Japanese.
Like the rest of us imagining thirty foot tall robots shooting death rays from their eyes, the Japanese smiled politely and said – ‘yes we understand, no humanoid robots.’ But deep down they were thinking – ‘but I want humanoid robots – and robot dogs as well! And some cats!’
Of course they were pretty well placed to make them, having ruled the roost in computer technology and robotic engineering for the last thirty years and are a fairly dogged and stubborn race in more ways than one. And so, the Internet is swarming with pictures of the various toy robot dogs that are available. They don’t do anything but walk or trot around, (I think they are sometimes employed in five-a-side football teams,) and look in varying ways like (or unlike) dogs. And of course, humanoid robots are everywhere. Take Honda’s Asimo project.
Asimo, (Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility) is a strange, huddled looking robot, about the size of a ten year old, but which has achieved some extraordinary goals. It can walk up and down stairs, kick a ball, do an approximation of running, and greet presidents of the USA as seen in the picture.
But my flippant tone isn’t intended to disparage the work. Asimo (with the correct software) can even recognise faces and small objects such as toy cars and can then retrieve a specific toy car from a group of cars of different types. So he examines the toy, remembers its shape and can then go into another room and from a table of other toys find the exact car. These tasks must have robotics scientists tearing their hair when they try to explain to the rest of us just how significant that it. It doesn’t seem like much when you just write it but we are seeing the robotic future being built before us.
Today’s designs are simple line designs again, inspired mainly by the Japanese dog toys; the ones at the top of the page are fairly early tryouts against a yellow background with a nice gold glow. Easy to draw freehand, pencil on paper but they look a bit rough on examination. I am always looking for my clean line and so redrew them all digitally, giving them a nice blue finish. I shall probably change that (remember CMYK colour doesn’t do blue very well) but it looks well in red, and green will work well too. The actual dogs, like modern cars are invariably silver, but that won’t necessarily work as I’d have to do it grey. They’ll all have glowing eyes though.
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