Woodcote Retirement Village residents were initially somewhat taken aback by the appearance of a bright yellow robotic dog, Spot. But he wowed them, as he showed off his prancing and dancing moves.
It took a while for the residents to warm to the young pup, who doesn’t have a head or tail and who first appeared, boxed up in a super large travel case. But it’s fair to say Spot impressed the crowd and brought out plenty of smiles and much discussion.
His handler, Brandon Hutcheson of Aware Group, took Spot through a few of his paces before handing over control to some of the Woodcote residents. It has taken 10 years or so for experts in artificial intelligence and robotics at US company Boston Dynamics to make Spot the dog he is today.
The project Aware Group is working on for Ryman Healthcare is called the Future of Aged Care. Aware helped us with the Olympics@Ryman games.
With Brandon on the computer controls, Spot turned over from a deep slumber, on his back, and then residents were given charge of the touchpad, much to their delight.
Overseas and in New Zealand Spot has been used for a number of different tasks, including a trial showing he could herd sheep. Brandon was at Woodcote village not only to show off the dog but to ask residents questions about the potential introduction of artificial intelligence into their lives.
“The point of this is to open up residents’ minds to be able to understand the limits of technology, to understand the boundaries and how residents feel around the technology itself … from a safety perspective, from an operation perspective,” Brandon said at the start of the presentation.
“In this case today what we’re going to be doing, is residents are going to be able to control the robot, just to show the ease and how far technology has come over the years…
“They will run the robot at me, and they will be able to see how the robot reacts… it shows it is intrinsically safe and it’s able to show the safety net.”