• neil

Day 56 (12 May): Singapore dog

No, it is not a recipe.

It is a reference to Spot the robotic dog who is now patrolling a park in Singapore warning people to respect social distancing.

Boston Dynamics, the maker of this marvel suggests that Spot can be used in the construction, oil and gas, electricity utilitity, mining, public safety, healthcare and research businesses.

You can create custom methods of controlling Spot, program autonomous missions, design payloads to expand his capabilities, and integrate sensor information into data analysis tools. Spot comes with mounting rails, payload ports and his own software development kit.


My first thought was 'Business be damned. Alfie - meet your successor'.

My second thought was 'What am I going to do with all those poo bags?'

My third thought was 'There are going to be a few confused Korean chefs with very blunt knives.'

All of which shows my limitations and the slow computational capacity of biological beings.

I went online and consulted Spot himself, who is much more alert than I am.

We had a long conversation. Long due to my very limited bandwidth.

In summary, he suggested that I start honing my coding skills. Just a few hours in front of the screen on a rainy lockdown day and then, when Amazon delivers my very own Spot, just half an hour to upload the program.

I will then have a dog that can sit, stay, roll over, play dead, catch a frisbee, fly a helicopter and speak mandarin. If I’m feeling nostalgic I can even write code for it to raise a leg when we pass a lamppost.

Spot will not show affection by the dumb wagging of a tail. He will declare his love in song:

O dearest Neil, O human mine!

Savant blogger and master wise

Just plug me in at dinner time

I’ll love you 'til my battery dies!

I know. ‘Mine’ is not a true rhyme for ‘time’ but he has only just begun the deep learning sessions on poetry. Another 27,676,364 attempts (about six minutes) and he’ll be poet laureate.

When we go on walks Spot says he will play my favourite music, tell jokes, give me my Spanish lessons, and (courtesy of his 14 kilo payload capacity and power pack ) heat up my lunch in a microwave.

Spot has also undertaken to be my social secretary. This is a big face saver as I have absolutely no memory for names even though I cross the same dog walkers every day. Thanks to his cameras, range finding option and and facial recognition tools Spot can whisper :“Megan at your 11 o’clock. Range 120 meters and closing. Her dog is called Colin, her kids are Suzie and Tim and her husband got run over by a tram. Don’t tell jokes about trams!”

And not only can I call out a hearty “Hello Megan!” but so can the dog.

It is, of course, pointless mentioning to Spot that I don’t know any tram jokes as he will just consider this further proof of my inherent redundancy.

When I go to bed at night Spot will integrate with the alarm system as a supplementary detector. I will have the only alarm system which, not content with being a banal change of state indicator, actually tasers an intruder with its teeth before reading him his rights and filming his contrite confession.

Spot says that, should he get bored, he's quite capable of going for a walk by himself and if I'm worried I can follow his progress on the big screen TV. Or, if I want to go out too but I'm feeling lazy, we can take my electric vehicle. Range anxiety is a thing of the past as, if needs must, I can plug the car into Spot’s bottom and we are good for another 25 kilometres.

I can also make money on his back. Literally. He has a payload of 14 kilos. Lentil delivery dog anybody?

Spots cost around 10,000 dollars. Or you can rent them. I can see Spots having a great future smuggling Cadbury’s Cream Eggs across borders - or whatever it is that people smuggle these days.

And the day my Spot starts rusting and his legs fall off I can just download his memories to a new one.

No newspapers and poo on carpets. No retraining.

Spot II just boots up, backs up and barks.

Spots do not smell or shed hair and are guaranteed to be without fleas.

I suspect however, that they might be prone to bugs - and viruses.

Go hug your suitcases! No holidays this year, so be prepared to deal with some emotional baggage.



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