A Robot Seeing-Eye Guide Dog for the Blind

This whole time, has the name of the Spot dog robot been a double entendre? Maybe not according to Spot manufacturer Boston Dynamics. However, Engineering students and faculty at the University of Glasgow have developed RoboGuide, a robot seeing-eye dog with Spot’s canine form factor.

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Kitted out with sensors and software, the RoboGuide can avoid obstacles and map routes in real time. Unlike a real dog, it not only doesn’t need to eat or poop, but it can understand complex spoken questions and comments—and can verbally answer them.

I love dogs, particularly working dogs, and would hate to see them replaced by robots. But as writer Mike Hanlon at New Atlas points out, they won’t be replaced; rather, the robotic versions will be for the many folks who can’t afford the real thing.

“Replacing a real ‘seeing eye dog’ with a robot guide dog might seem like a step backwards, particularly considering the life-affirming nature of the inter-species collaboration and the obvious emotional bond.

“That’s until you realize that only one in every 15,000 visually impaired people has a service dog of any kind. After a century of development, there are just 20,000 guide dogs on the planet … and 43 million blind people … plus another 295 million who are visually impaired enough that a guide dog would radically improve their existence.”

There is also the sad fact that dogs don’t live for very long; over a 20-year period a blind person might go through three to four seeing-eye dogs, each costing roughly $50,000. Hanlon estimates the price for a robotic version, which could of course be repaired, could be “below $2,000.”

You may be wondering: If it’s a robot, why does it need to be in the dog form factor of the incumbent creature? The answer is, it doesn’t. The developers say both a wheeled version and a humanoid version will be offered as well, allowing the user to select the form that they prefer.

Here’s the RoboGuide being tested out at the Hunterian Museum in Scotland:

Source: core77

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