Forget cloning dogs, A.I. is the real way to let your pooch live forever

Once superintelligence arrives, we don’t know if it’s going to be on our side or against us. But in the meantime, you could do a lot worse than training artificial intelligence to respond like humanity’s best friend, the dog. That’s what researchers from the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence set out to do recently with a new deep-learning A.I. that is designed to predict how dogs would respond in any given situation.

“The goal of the project is to train statistical models that behave like the brain of a dog,” Kiana Ehsani, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “We try to predict, based on what the dog sees, how she will move her joints, follow the owner, fetch treats and toys, and in general react to the outside world.”

To create their unlikely A.I., the researchers fixed a range of sensors to an Alaskan Malamute named Kelp M. Redmon. These included a GoPro and microphone on its head, inertia sensors on its body, legs and tail, and an Arduino unit on the back to collect the data. They then let the dog go about its data activities, such as playing in the park.

Once more than 20,000 frames of video had been collected, the researchers used this to train their A.I. They were interested in three main goals: Predicting future movements, planning tasks, and learning doggy behavior. The hope is that they will be able to present the dog A.I. with scenarios — like spotting a squirrel — and then accurately modeling a response. Of the 24,500 frames of video collected, 21,000 were used to train the A.I., and the remainder to test its performance.

Right now, the A.I. isn’t hooked up to a physical body, but that could soon change. The team is interested in using their A.I. to create a realistic robot dog. This might have applications in training robots to carry out tasks like route planning with greater efficiency. There is also an altogether more intriguing use.

“Another application would be making a robot dog that acts exactly the same as your real dog,” Ehsani said. “The emotional reactions and their interests will be the same. It’s like making your dog live forever.”

Hey, that certainly beats Barbra Streisand’s Black Mirror-come-to-life scenario of just cloning her dog over and over again.

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