New robot guide dog shows not only human jobs threatened by AI

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Automation doesn’t only threaten human workers. Our canine colleagues may also need new jobs because there’s a new robot guide dog in town — and it doesn’t even need walkies.

Named Roboguide, the quadruped was bred at the University of Glasgow. The research team built the prototype pooch to support blind and partially sighted people in indoor spaces.

Their design solves common problems in assistive tech.

“One significant drawback of many current four-legged, two-legged and wheeled robots is that the technology which allows them to find their way around can limit their usefulness as assistants for the visually impaired,” said Dr Olaoluwa Popoola, the RoboGuide project’s principal investigator.
 
“Robots which use GPS to navigate, for example, can perform well outdoors, but often struggle in indoor settings, where signal coverage can weaken. Others, which use cameras to ‘see,’ are limited by line of sight, which makes it harder for them to safely guide people around objects or around bends.”

To overcome these limitations, sensors on RoboGuide analyse the device’s surroundings. Using software developed by the team, the high-tech hound then learns optimal routes between locations. As the robot roams, the sensor data guides it around any obstacles it encounters.

The mechanical mutt also obeys its owner. With the aid of large models, the RoboGuide understands human questions and comments — and even responds verbally.

This unusual dog trick was showcased in December at the Hunterian, Scotland’s oldest museum. During the trial, the polished pooch gave interactive speeches on six exhibits and guidance around the museum to volunteers.