(TMU) — Robotics, artificial intelligence, and automated machines are increasingly being integrated into our society, largely by corporations and governments who use them at all levels, from a secretarial capacity or expedited assembly to military and law enforcement applications.
Over the last few years, one of the leaders in this field has been Boston Dynamics, whose aggressive bipedal and quadruped robots endowed with advanced deep learning capabilities have frequently been the subject of both memes and gifs on the internet.
And now, a new robotic dog named Astro, whose designers intended to mimic Boston Dynamics’ creations, is raising eyebrows—not because of its high-tech features but for the robodog’s horrific eyes.
Astro is not your typical pre-programmed automation pup, but rather runs on inputs from a deep neural network within a computer-simulated brain. The brain is itself contained inside a 3-D printed head that looks a lot like a Doberman pinscher. Astro is equipped with state of the art sensors, radar imaging, cameras, and microphones which allow the “puppy-in-training” to learn and react in real-time while performing both human and “doggie-like” tasks.
Astro is the creation of an eclectic team of researchers and scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robots Laboratory (MPCT). In a press release, Ata Sarajedini, Ph.D., Dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science described the robodog:
“Astro is inspired by the human brain and he has come to life through machine learning and artificial intelligence, which is proving to be an invaluable resource in helping to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.”
But it’s not Astro’s neural network—which makes it a hybrid of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa—that is drawing the most attention. Instead, the robodog’s eerie, human-like eyes have trigged “uncanny valley” reactions in people who feel Astro has a somewhat sinister gaze.
This is perhaps an oversight, given Astro’s functionality, which makes him capable of “detecting guns, explosives, and gun residue to assist police, the military, and security personnel.”
It has not been reported the extent to which Astro is capable of sensing guns and whether that implies the robot is able to swiftly identify citizens who have concealed firearms in public spaces.
The FAU team says Astro may also have use in medical diagnostic monitoring, as a service dog for the visually impaired, and even on first responder teams and search and rescue efforts. Hopefully, anyone Astro rescues won’t be too terrified by its eyes.
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