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Astro the Robodog Stands on Aluminum

Astro robotic dog© by FAU

Man’s best friend is getting a mechanical upgrade. Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory (MPCR) with funding from Astro Robotics is using deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to develop a four-legged seeing and hearing intelligent robotic dog. Astro, as it is named, is unique in that he is the only quadruped robot of this type with a head, designed to resemble a Doberman Pinscher.

Weighing 60 lbs, Astro features an aluminum tubular frame manufactured from 6068 alloy. Sitting on top of this structure is a 3D-printed polylactic acid head and shell housing six computers, built in cameras, and other features designed to enable the mechanical pup to be able to see and hear its surroundings.

“Aluminum’s strength-to-weight ratio along with its affordability make it an excellent choice for long-range autonomous robots, where every additional ounce translates to reduced runtime and/or reduced payload,” said Elan Barenholtz, an associate professor at FAU. “We are loading Astro up with computer-power and sensors but still expect field runtime in the 3 hour range, all while maintaining the durability to withstand the shocks of rough surface movement.”

The AI systems within Astro are inspired by the human brain. The pooch is an intelligent machine that will be able to learn from experience to perform tasks that benefit humanity. Currently, he is able to respond to commands such as “sit,” “stand,” and “lie down.” Eventually, he will be able to understand and respond to hand signals, comprehend multiple languages, coordinate his efforts with drones, distinguish human faces, and even recognize other dogs.

The robodog’s key missions will include detecting guns, explosives, and gun residue to assist police, the military, and security personnel. In addition, he can be programmed to serve as a first responder in search and rescue missions, assist as a service dog for the visually impaired, or to provide medical diagnostic monitoring.

Editor’s Note: Astro is also featured on the cover of the October 2019 issue of Light Metal Age, in which this article first appeared. To receive the current issue, please subscribe.

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