Science

The fastest Chinese robot dog in the world

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This high-tech dog, called AlphaDog, runs on artificial intelligence, which allows it to “hear” and “see” its surroundings.

The AlphaDog quadruped robot in a workshop of the Weilan Intelligent Technology Corporation in Nanjing, April 2, 2021.

AFP

A better dog: he obeys, does not bark, does not bite and leaves even fewer memories on the carpet. And its Chinese designer assures it, its robot-dog, called AlphaDog, is the fastest in the world. The high-tech doggie, equipped with detectors, runs on artificial intelligence, which allows it to “hear” and “see” its environment. But you can also take it for a walk.

Even if it has neither a tail nor a head, “it’s just like a real dog,” summarizes Ma Jie, technology manager at Weilan, the Nanjing company behind the prototype.

Using 15 km / hour at top speed, AlphaDog claims the world race record for a metallic animal. It is also more stable than a real dog, explain its designers, with a big kick in the hindquarters as a demonstration.

Unlike a common remote-controlled pooch, the four-legged robot moves freely in its environment using 5G mobile internet, with ultra-fast response time. “It detects the friction and the level of the ground in order to adapt its height and the speed of its steps”, explains Ma Jie, while the demonstrator robot slowly but surely begins to climb a staircase.

Guide or factory dog

It was at Oxford that Ma Jie studied reinforcement learning, an artificial intelligence technique that “trains” robots through rewards or punishment. He used this technique to program his robot based on canine behavior.

AlphaDog reconciles two well-shared tocades in China today: technology and pets. The latter had disappeared from circulation in the first decades of the Communist regime but have made a comeback in the last 20 years.

As a result, more than 1,800 AlphaDogs were sold from their first month on the market, for the tidy sum of 16,000 yuan (2,000 euros). “The orders come mainly from computer developers, geeks, but also children, who really seem to love it,” says Ma Jie.

While Beijing is investing heavily in new technologies, particularly artificial intelligence, robots are already present in the landscape as parcel deliverers, waiters in restaurants or even those responsible for Covid-19 screening tests. Ultimately, the creators of the Chinese robot-dog intend to put it at the service of the blind. “When he also has the dialogue function, he will be able to communicate with the disabled and take them to the supermarket or to the bus stop,” explains Ma Jie.

In the “enterprise” version, a larger AlphaDog can be used in the inspection of industrial machines or pipes. The next generation could also see the robot endowed with a “personality” of the customer’s choice: more like a niche or rather a pitbull …

(AFP)

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