Good news for lamp-posts

Capable of performing handstandsand finding and kicking a football, the RS-01 Robodog is also large and strong enough to lift a five-year old child on its back.

Dogs are great. They offer unconditional love, chase after sticks and bark at the postman. However, they do have their drawbacks. They pay too much attention to lamp-posts, they leave hair everywhere and they smell.

Imagine then, a version of man’s best friend with none of this unpleasantness, and look no further than the RS-01 Robodog; a labrador sized robot dog invented by UK robot experts Roboscience.

Capable of performing handstands, climbing over obstacles and finding and kicking a football, RS-01 is also large and strong enough to lift a five-year old child on its back. RS-01’s brain is a miniature PC running Windows, but it can also use wireless networking to link to its owners’ PC, allowing it to be permanently on-line. It will, for example, synchronise to an Outlook Mailbox and read e-mails to its owner.

The robot is able to operate in two distinct modes. In autonomous mode, it will think and act for itself without the need for human intervention. The primary user interface in this mode is via voice recognition and it will understand and act on up to 60 verbal instructions. Alternatively, the robot can be teleoperated by its owner via a PC, and even over the internet.

The immediate comparison is with Sony’s Aibo. But, unlike Aibo, Robodog is no toy (limited production runs and a price tag of £20,000 will keep it out of your local Dixons). Instead, its creators view it as a technology demonstrator, a platform for some very interesting technologies that they have developed. The plan is to license different parts of robodog for commercial and military applications.( e.g legs in prosthetics applications and the vision system for surveillance or remote repairing of nuclear reactors.) According to Roboscience, a number of partners are lined up, although they are unable to name names at the moment Ex-Formula One designer Nick Wirth and his team of 8 engineers took only 7 months to design and build the robot, a rapid development schedule that was made possible, says Wirth, thanks to a collaborative development environment based on Unigraphics CAD tools.

Two of the most significant design and technology breakthroughs made were in the Robodog’s joints and body construction, where the use of the Unigraphics software suite was critical to the project’s success.

Nick Wirth explains. ‘The joints that we have developed combine elements that are usually separated, such as hinges, motors and a gearbox in a way that provides a far superior power-to-weight ratio than conventional designs. This is one of the secrets of the RS-01 RoboDog’s advanced motive abilities and run time.’

During the design of the joints, design data from an external spreadsheet was imported into Unigraphics where it was used to create the basic geometry for the parametric 3D models. The final detailed design and assembly modelling of the joints was then completed in the usual way in the 3D CAD environment.

As well as licensing the technology from Robodog, the company does have another, currently top secret, project up its sleeve. Apparently, it, whatever it is, will feature about 80% of the technology used on Robodog.