Archive for December 10, 2008

Dogs and Horses

Here’s another period piece from the Popular Science archives. This one comes from September 1940 :


A dog leading a horse on a rope isn’t a new idea.  And… it’s also not necessarily a good idea.  This is not a trick to try with a green horse or a poorly-trained dog.  A quick search of the intertubes brings up lots of video — most of it, IMO, showing excellent examples of what not to do.  The clip below was the only exception I found.  It shows a small, quiet dog leading a patient horse calmly around the yard – then cheerfully stopping when the horse appears to get tired of the game.  It’s very cute but — please don’t try this at home!

December 10, 2008 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

Robots Taking Dangerous Work From Dogs — and Men

Mover over Big Dog the little ‘dogs’ may be taking over — from CNET:

Release the fleas! SWAT and other urban assault teams could soon be deploying packs of all-seeing, hopping robots armed with mini missiles to ferret out the bad guys.

The EyeDrive unmanned ground vehicle (UGV)uses remote-controlled 360-degree panoramic video technology and a patented Point & Go sensor guidance mode to run down and “instinctively eliminate” human targets at ranges of up to 90 feet, according to ODF Optronics.


Built-in navigation allows multiple units to work in robotic unison, thus doubling, and even tripling, indoor reconnaissance capacity, according to the Israel-based company. In fact, the standard kit comes with two complete units. It could replace K-9s in attack mode and other dangerous duties

This 5-pound all-terrain mini mite can be tossed–or dropped–from up to about 10 feet and is dual-side operable, which means it’s self-righting. The “hopper” feature is optional. It allows the EyeDrive to hop over 3-foot obstacles, enhancing its observational capabilities, according to the developer.

Packs of five-pound robots who can survive being dropped, hop over over obstacles, travel right-side-up or upside-down, have 360 degree vision and work  in packs… what will they think of next? Well…

Defense Update reports that explosive-sniffing robots are also in the works:

The PackBot is equipped with a highly dexterous, 7-foot arm carrying the Fido sensor head and a communications interface sending explosive detection results to the Packbot Operator Control Unit (OCU). This integration model allows the Fido detector to be removed and utilized for general handheld operations in addition to the remote applications made possible by the Packbot. The manipulator arm allows the robot to place the explosive sensor close to suspicious packages and other objects, reach through car windows and under vehicles. When an explosive is detected, PackBot can use its on-board capabilities to destroy IEDs, while warfighters remain out of harm’s way.

“The sensitivity of the Fido explosives ‘sniffer’ is comparable to that of highly trained bomb dogs, and integrating this advanced detection capability with the versatile iRobot PackBot robots will help keep soldiers out of harm’s way,” said Colin Cumming, chief technology officer of ICx Technologies.

Inspired by the ability of bomb sniffing dogs to detect explosives, the ICx Fido Explosives Detector has the advantage of being both ultra-sensitive and capable of quickly screening packages, facilities, people and vehicles for traces of explosives. The breakthrough sensing technology behind the Fido detector supports both particle and vapor detection and allows operators the versatility and portability necessary for diverse detection and screening scenarios.

While we love working dogs, we’re glad to see that robots are taking this dangerous work away from dogs — and men. It sounds like (if the government doesn’t go dead broke) we’ll be seeing more of them. Homeland Security Today reports:

Technologies that iRobot developed for military applications under contract with the Pentagon are applicable to hostage situations, explosives detection and destruction, and border patrol, Joe Dyer, executive vice president and general manager of the government and industrial division of iRobot, told HSToday.

The homeland security market for robots could soar over the next several years with a government requirement that all certified bomb squads must have robots for explosives ordnance detection and disposal by the end of the decade.

There are domestic applications as well.  Locally, in the City of Bloomington, MN a robotic detection and surveillance device works alongside its human and canine counterparts.

December 10, 2008 at 8:02 pm 1 comment

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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December 2008