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One of the best and most exciting parts of adopting a dog is getting to teach it different tricks. You get to watch an animal learn different behaviors as it grows up, and it’s beautiful.
However, one of the reasons many people prefer robot dogs over real pets is because they don’t have the time for dog training. This is because you’ll need lots of time to teach dogs different tricks, how to sit, stand, potty train them, and so on.
Of course, a robot dog comes with programmed stunts and tricks so that you don’t have to spend time trying to teach them how to fetch. Plenty of these robots can even do things real dogs can’t, like sing or do a backflip.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t teach a robot new tricks. The process is actually similar to altering a real dog’s behavior. Find out more below.
Humans are wired quite differently from robots. We are able to adapt to our environment, learn from our mistakes, and also feel real emotions. These are all the things that technology wants to emulate in robotics and machines, but there’s much debate as to whether anyone has actually done it.
Still, plenty of researchers and developers have gotten pretty close. Some robotic dogs are developed with artificial intelligence that allows them to respond to their owner’s behavior with empathy.
Many robotic dogs can interact socially with their owners. Because of this, they can detect emotions like sadness or happiness, and react accordingly —they’ll cuddle up to you when you’re down or play with you when you’re cheerful.
Some are also programmed to express emotions, like playfulness, glee, and even sadness upon encountering different situations.
Despite being equipped with advanced technology, robotic dogs aren’t infallible. In fact, the genre of “robotic dog falling over” makes up plenty of the most-watched robot videos on the internet.
So, training a robot dog to get back up after it falls down a flight of stairs or knocks itself over on a chair is no easy task. But researchers everywhere have found a technique that taught robots new skills: positive reinforcement.
One example is Spot. The team behind the robotic dog has created programming that includes machine learning algorithms to help in training robots to identify patterns and objects. The machine learning model will be able to detect an object, visualize the results through Spot’s tablet, and command the dog to pick it up.
In short, you can train robots to play fetch.
The team behind Spot has also found that positive reinforcement works wonders. The same way owners taught dogs how to practice sitting, standing, and other tricks by giving them a treat afterward, the team was able to teach their simulated robot to focus on simple tasks, like stacking blocks for example.
For each task the robot was trained to perform, successful attempts were rewarded with “points.” For unsuccessful tasks, no points were given. This research further cemented the concept of robotics training. The fact that they can learn new tricks shows that they might just survive and adapt to the real world quite quickly.
In another robotics laboratory, a team of students and colleagues from Washington State University, North Carolina State University, and Brown University were able to teach a virtual robot dog how to transport items between different-colored rooms.
The secret behind their success? The age-old trick for teaching animals new tricks: positive reinforcement once again. This became a sign that the same teaching model could be applied to real-world physical robots, too.
With more flexibility integrated into the software of beloved robot dogs, it’s not hard to imagine a future where they become integrated into everyday life. Could you picture a robotic dog going for runs, playing with other dogs, and learning how to play fetch? Soon, it might be our reality.
To learn about how these creatures evolved to the smart machines they are today, take a look at the first-ever robot dog here.
Most robot dogs vary in price. Spot, a highly advanced machine, costs around $75,400. However, companion toys can be purchased at a much lower price. Check out our guide to the best cheap robot pets here.
For those who don’t have the time to potty train their pets, another option is to purchase a robot that can do it for (and even better than) you. One such company is called Companion, and they specialize in providing dogs with robotic trainers to help them deal with behavioral and emotional problems while their owner is away.