Skip to main content

Astro the dog-inspired quadruped robot can sit, lie down, and… learn?

Who’s a ‘Good Boy?’ Astro, FAU’s Smart Robodog That’s Who

It’s one thing to claim that you’re the leader in a particular market when you’re one of the only ones competing in it. It’s another altogether to enter a crowded sector and claim that you’ve hit a home run. That’s what researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory say they’ve achieved with their new dog-inspired quadruped robot. Joining the likes of Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot and the oil rig-inspecting Anymal, they have built a new Doberman pinscher-inspired robot dog called Astro — and they’re confident that they’re onto a winner.

“We honestly think Astro may be the coolest robot on the planet right now,” Elan Barenholtz, an associate professor in FAU’s Department of Psychology, told Digital Trends. “There is a lot of buzz in the community around the flexibility and robustness of quadruped robots. But other models out there don’t have a brain to match the sophistication of the body and mostly operate based on human remote control. What we are developing is a truly autonomous robotic ‘animal.’ Astro can see, hear and feel — and, in the near future, smell — using onboard sensors.”

The “coolest robot on the planet” is a tall order, but Astro certainly has a few things to get excited about. Not only does it look like a dog — thanks to its 3D-printed head — but it’s designed to learn like one, too. It boasts a radar-imaging module, onboard cameras, and a directional microphone. These are powered by a set of Nvidia Jetson TX2 GPUs which run neural networks that take this sensory data, process it, and use it to make behavioral decisions in real time. Astro can be taught new actions and associations. Right now, that means commands like “sit,” but over time its creators say that he’ll be able to learn hand signals, different colors, and even a variety of languages.

“We think this is the only path to achieve true, embedded, artificial intelligence that can operate in complex real-world environments,” Barenholtz said.

This isn’t just about a neat proof-of-concept, either. The team behind Astro (which also includes William Hahn and Pedram Nimreezi) believe they’ve developed a multi-purpose platform which could be used in any situation where you need eyes, ears, and a brain, but it’s not necessarily safe or practical for a human.

“We are directly developing for some specific applications such as safety monitoring using A.I. that can detect weapons and suspicious activity or search-and-rescue that can localize and recognize distress sounds and move to that location,” Barenholtz continued. “And, of course, there is always the robotic pet option. Who wouldn’t want to be the first on the block to walk an autonomous A.I. good boy down the street?”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
This quirky humanoid robot can be teleoperated using a VR headset
Pollen robot

The inventors of Reachy, a humanoid, open-source robot created by the French startup Pollen Robotics, have come up with a way to teleoperate the robo-creation through virtual reality. This opens up the possibility of users controlling the robot to carry out potentially complex tasks from anywhere in the world, so long as they're able to slip on a VR headset to do it.

"Using a VR device -- [a] headset and controllers -- a human can take full control of Reachy," Matthieu Lapeyre, CEO and co-founder of Pollen Robotics, told Digital Trends. "You see exactly what Reachy sees in 3D through its dual camera, and Reachy replicates your head and hands motions. You can control the gripper with the controllers’ triggers, and get haptic feedback from the controller vibrations. It's really like you were ‘in’ the robot to do the job. It works through the network, you can be either close or far away from Reachy, as long as you have a proper internet connection it will work the same."

Read more
Your next therapy dog could be a biomimetic robot
MiRo-E biomimetic robot along with therapy dog Tallulah

Having an animal as a companion can be helpful for dealing with a whole range of psychological and physical health issues, especially among children. But not everyone is able to keep a pet. Now, a new study shows that spending time with a robotic dog as a companion can bring many of the same benefits as spending time with a real dog.

The research, performed at the University of Portsmouth, is published in the International Journal of Social Robotics. It found that when a group of 11- and 12-year-old children spent two sessions with the biomimetic MiRo-E robot dog, they experienced many of the same positive emotions as when they spent time with a real therapy dog.

Read more
How robotic exoskeletons can help paraplegic patients heal from injuries
Gordon Cheng, Professor for Cognitive Systems, wants to dig deeper in understanding how the brain works.

Gordon Cheng, Professor for Cognitive Systems, wants to dig deeper in understanding how the brain works. Astrid Eckert / TUM

When a team of neuroscientists fitted paraplegic patients with exoskeletons, they hoped the patients could use the robotic assistance to walk. They found something even more remarkable: Using the exoskeleton helped their healing, with patients regaining some control over their legs.

Read more