Chinese tech company develops robo-dogs, Alpha Dogs

The high-tech hound uses sensors and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ its environment — and can even be taken for walks. “It’s really very similar to a real dog,” says Ma Jie, chief technology officer at Weilan, the company behind the product.AlphaDog follows in the paw prints of “Spot”, a four-legged machine designed for industrial use by Boston Dynamics that became an internet sensation after appearing in a series of viral YouTube videos.With four metal legs it is more stable than a real dog, Ma explains as one of his team swiftly kicks it to prove the point. “It can predict the friction and height of the ground (to) adjust its height, adjust the stride frequency, and adapt to the environment,” he tells AFP, as the robot slowly navigates going up a set of stairs.Its creators are using 5G technology, super-fast internet speeds with immediate reaction times, to make the robot operate autonomously.

China seeks to upskill its workforce, Beijing has been making huge investments in robotics and AI. Robots are already used to deliver parcels, serve in restaurants, offer information at stations and even take throat swabs for Covid-19 tests.

Future software updates will include the dog “barking” — and beyond that, even add human voices to allow conversations between pet and owner. There is also a larger “enterprise” dog model, designed for industrial inspections of machinery or pipes. The next generation of the AlphaDog in pet form could also introduce “personalities” to the dog’s toolkit to make them even more canine-like, as well as extend its somewhat brief battery life.

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