Imagine this: It’s Saturday morning and your dog, like every day of the week, is aching for you to take him for his morning walk: Nothing unusual so far.
Now imagine that, as you step outside your house to let your dog indulge in his morning stride, you are then faced with robots and flying drones doing the same dog-walking duty as you.
Crazy futuristic idea, right? Maybe not so crazy after all, if we are to believe New Yorker Jeff Myers.
Using a recently developed AR drone, Mr Myers has uploaded a video showing the drone being programmed to be used for walking a dog. In the video, we can see the drone hovering on top of the dog, which is attached by a lead to the flying object. The progress of the walk is also recorded live and shown on a map.
The idea of a dog-walking robot is not new. In 2011, designers at SchultzWORKS were commissioned to create Luna, a human-sized robot programmable for walking your dog (pictured above).
Although we have yet to see any of those projects being mass-marketed, we cannot deny that having a dog-walking robot could have clear advantages in the long run:
When your dog needs to go for a walk in the middle of the night or early in the morning, imagine the satisfaction of having your trusted drone do the job, thus letting you enjoy some valuable extra minutes of sleep. On a more serious note, for those with busy work-schedules, this could be a way to get your dog exercised regularly (or at least for part of the time), thus limiting potential risks of obesity for your pet.
There are also clear advantages for older or disabled people who may not be able to provide the daily exercise their pets need.
We can, however, see a lot of potential problems. Here are 5 reasons why you should think twice before replacing your usual dog walker with a dog-walking drone:
1) If your dog is well behaved, it may well be a walk in the park. If your dog is however temperamental or prone to walking away, especially if he is of a larger breed, this may well result in your expensive dog-walking drone ending up looking more like a battered toaster.
2) If you have ever vacuumed in front of your dog or seen his reaction when you have just started the washing machine, you will know that dogs are generally not so great with machines and their noises. It is therefore very possible that your dog will simply refuse to go out with your drone altogether. Expect also a lot of loud barking as a result.
3) Dogs have a tendency to unpredictability, especially when meeting other dogs. How will your drone cope when Sparky the German Sheppard decides to bypass his programmed walk to go ‘chat’ with the neighbour’s dog?
4) As much as we love our companions, we cannot deny that walking our dogs is not just a selfless act. It’s also a way for us to enjoy time with them, speak to neighbours and by passers, enjoy the sunny weather, etc…It is as much a social tool as a duty and we doubt many owners would relinquish that privilege in favour of their pet-inclined household robot.
5) The dreaded and rarely explicitly discussed matter of every dog owner out there: Poop-scooping. We have spent years of campaigning against dog owners not picking up after their pets, so how are we going to tackle this when pets are being walked by flying drones? Will they recognise when and how to do it or are we likely to, due to programming problems, witness poor little Chihuahuas and pigeons being mistakenly scooped as a result?
We are being overtly comical about the issue, not denying the technology involved (we salute the creativity and technical know-how of the designers and engineers responsible for those projects) but probably because it seems, even in those futuristic days of 3-D printing and Cyber-developments, a very far-fetched idea.
That said, if someone can come up with a drone capable of walking the dog, pick up the mess after it, talk to the neighbours and also bring back the newspaper and a bottle of milk, we may well change our mind about those possible dog-walking bots!
What do you guys make of this? Plain crazy or a glimpse of the future? Let us know your view on the subject!