Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.
This is a real story. Honest.
It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.
(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)
Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.
Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.
Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.
In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.
Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.
If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.
According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.
It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?
Nor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.
Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.
There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.
But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.
Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.
(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)
A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.
So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.
Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.
Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.
More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.
That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?
The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.
I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.
(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 7th, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amazon, animals, biting, blades, dangers, deliveries, delivery, delivery drones, dog, dog bites, dogs, drone, drones, drones and dogs, hazards, incidents, injuries, internet, jobs, liability, online, packages, peace, pets, post office, postal service, prime air, project, quiet, reactions, response, shopping, simulated dog, skies, threat
There are only two possible explanations for this stand I am about to take:
One, I have come around to my dog’s way of thinking on the matter of fireworks, which is that they are to be feared, freaked out by, and avoided at all costs, even if it means hiding in the bathtub.
Two, I have become a certifiable old fart.
Oh wait, there’s a third possibility: Maybe it’s a combination of the two.
I am speaking here of the entire gamut of fireworks, from big sanctioned municipal events to small backyard displays to solo performances by those who feel the need to mindlessly fire a gun into the air while intoxicated.
With New Year’s behind us, and the Fourth of July ahead, I pose the question: Do we really need any of it? And, if so, is it possible to have the spectacle without the noise?
There’s a town in Italy, called Collecchio, that has reportedly introduced legislation requiring people to use “silent fireworks” out of respect to animals, for whom the noise causes some serious stress.
That’s an idea worth importing.
Other than a reference on a travel website, I couldn’t find a lot of information about the proposal on the Internet. Then again, on the Internet, good and quiet ideas tend to get buried by loud, stupid and flashy ones.
Nor could I find any truly “silent” fireworks. There are a few videos on YouTube that claim to feature “silent” or “quiet” fireworks, but the companies behind them seem to be promising more than they are delivering.
In the UK, this past November, Birmingham Botanical Gardens offered a silent fireworks show they promised would be “ideal for the little ones,” but it was followed by complaints from parents who said they were forced to leave because the loud noises frightened their children, according to a BBC report.
Why is it society has been able to come up with the technology to put silencers on guns, but not on fireworks?
Fireworks have been an American tradition for more than 200 years, and any voice calling for putting a muzzle on them — much like any voice calling for gun control — is likely to be blasted as unpatriotic.
For dogs, they are more than just annoying. They confuse and stress out many dogs, often leading them to run away, sometimes getting hit by cars in the process. They have negative effects on birds and other animals, too, not to mention air quality and all the injuries to humans the do-it-yourself variety cause.
But the spectacle, and the tenuous link to patriotism, somehow rate as more important than all that.
Even in an age of heightened fears over terrorists, we still feel the need to see and hear the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air. We need to see and hear what is, in effect, a re-creation of war.
Fireworks displays are like Donald Trump — big and loud and in your face, full of bangs, booms and bombast, a spewing spectacle that prides itself in being outrageous and pushing the limits.
I would not mind in the least if they both went away. But neither is likely to, even though there are quieter, saner alternatives.
Laser light shows are one, but they don’t seem to have wowed us like traditional fireworks displays.
When an air pollution control district in California offered three towns $10,000 to call off their fireworks shows and replace them with laser light shows in 2012, none of the towns accepted the offer.
“You can’t have a Fourth of July show with just light beams,” one fair official said. “It would have been two minutes and the kids would have been done and gone.”
Another California town, Morro Bay, tried a light show in 2009 — due to predictions of a foggy night — but says it won’t do it again.
“It was like a bad Pink Floyd concert,” one official said.
I’m not sure there is such a thing as silent fireworks or, for that matter, such a thing as a bad Pink Floyd concert. But both my dog and I — while not being so brash as to suggest celebrating peace instead of war — cast a vote for quieter celebrations.
Here’s a not entirely quiet example, from a company that provides “quiet” fireworks for weddings and other events:
Posted by John Woestendiek January 11th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, celebrations, collecchio, dangers, displays, dog, dogs, environment, fireworks, fourth of july, guns, hazards, italy, loud, new years, noise, patriotism, pets, pollution, proposal, quiet fireworks, run away, silent fireworks, war
We’re not sure every firefighter in America would, without so much as a second thought, rush into an icy lake to save a panicky Doberman named Diablo.
But these two members of the St. Louis Fire Department’s Rescue Squad 1C did, and as a result Diablo has lived to chase geese another day.
Diablo was with his owner at O’Fallon Park Sunday afternoon when he spotted a goose and ran onto the lake after it, falling through the ice and struggling to get out.
Firefighter Demetris Alfred said the dog was in he icy waters for about 25 minutes. Firefighter Stan Baynes said the dog was clearly struggling: “He kept rolling over and submerging.”
After warming the dog up, he took him to a veterinarian to be checked out.
The scene was captured by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer J.B. Forbes.
You can see the entire slideshow here.
(Photos: J.B. Forbes / St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, chasing, demtris Alfred, diablo, doberman, dogs, firefighters, goose, hazards, ice, icy, lake, ofallon, park, pets, photography, photos, post-dispatch, rescue, saved, st. louis, stan baynes, winter
Here’s a handy tip to keep dogs from doing their business in those sidewalk tree wells — one that works better than bricks, better than fences, and is all but guaranteed to keep those disease-carrying beasts from tainting our otherwise pristine urban tree life:
Take cuttings from thorny plants, like rose bushes, and spread them around the tree.
It may sound like a tip from Satan’s Helpful Household Hints (not a real book, to our knowledge). But it’s actually the advice offered by a Baltimore neighborhood association bedeviled by dog poop that’s not getting picked up.
The advice came in the January newsletter of the Fells Prospect Community Association.
“… You can make it clear that you don’t want pets approaching by planting thorny plants (roses, bayberry), or covering your tree pit with pine cones or cuttings from thorny plants that are uncomfortable for dogs to walk on. A sign will also encourage some people to move their dog to the next house.”
Of course moving on to the next house isn’t really the answer — is it? — unless dog and walker keep doing so until they are outside the boundaries of Fells Prospect, a neighborhood near Fells Point and Butcher Hill. Even then, the problem isn’t over. It has just moved somewhere else.
Even if every single resident of Fells Prospect adopted a tree well, nurturing it and the tree it contained (be it a live one or a dead one), even if they filled said well with thorns, lead paint chips, discarded hypodermic needles and perhaps a few strands of barbed wire, that’s all — other than some canine and human casualties — that would be achieved.
This is a hardly a new issue. In big and densely packed cities, there are few options when it comes to dogs relieving themselves. Everything is so paved over that a tiny patch of turf or dirt surrounding a tree is the only place for dogs to go. So dogs go there. Responsible dog owners, at least, pick it up. But some dog owners, like some community association officials, are thoughtless and uncaring.
So the tired old battle wages on — escalating to levels that could involve bloodshed — when, if everyone would just pick up their dog’s feces, it could finally shut the whiners up, or at least most of them.
Setting booby traps that puncture and maim is not the answer.
It’s generally accepted that the best route is education, perhaps along with some enforcement of the law that threatens $1,000 fines for unscooped poop.
It’s generally true that a tree well that is well-maintained, with a healthy tree, and some flowers around it, will be avoided, if not by the dog, at least by their walker. Ace and I always tried to steer around those when we lived in Baltimore. Sure, we’d come across dog poop on the sidewalk from time to time — just as we’d come across rats, both dead and alive, dirty needles and used condoms, and once in my backyard, a buried handgun.
Baltimore has bigger problems than dog poop. That’s not to say unscooped dog poop shouldn’t be addressed, only that it makes sense to do so with some perspective, in a reasonable matter that doesn’t involve installing weapons of mass destruction.
Alisa Peters, owner of You Silly Dog, was one of those that expressed concern about the community association’s advice: “It’s going to be uncomfortable and/or painful for the dog,” she told the Baltimore Sun. “Why are we punishing the dog? It’s not the dog’s fault.”
Veterinarian Gregory Burbelo, owner of the Boston Street Animal Hospital, which advertises in the newsletter, told The Sun he plans to ask the association to retract its comments.
“It’s sort of trickery,” he said. “It hurts the dog but doesn’t serve as a warning to the owner to keep the dog out.” While a dog may have a fair chance avoiding a thorny bush planted in a tree well, sharp clippings spread across the ground could go unseen and lead to injuries.
Officials of the Fells Prospect Community Association declined to comment to The Sun, including Phyllis Fung, who co-founded Cut the Crap Baltimore last year to combat dog waste in the neighborhood. She’s the association’s secretary.
Making the issue even more thorny is the fact that residents don’t own the sidewalks, or the tree wells within those sidewalks, so they lack the right to install booby traps in the first place.
Worse yet, any such traps could injure not just dogs whose owners are scofflaws, but those belonging to law-abiding, poop-scooping owners as well.
“We’re ignoring the fact that we’re attempting to punish 100 percent of the animals for the issues of 10 percent of owners who are irresponsible,” dog owner and neighborhood resident John Lam told the newspaper.
“I’m hoping people will ignore [the suggestions]. There are are a lot of homeowners who think they own their tree pits and don’t realize they’re in the public right-of-way. I have a big concern that people will start putting stuff in the tree pits to hurt dogs.”
(Top photo by Gail Langellotto; graphic from Cut the Crap Baltimore)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 10th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, animals, baltimore, booby trap, city, clippings, community association, dog poop, dogs, feces, fells prospect, hazards, inhumane, living, newsletter, pets, pine cones, poop, scoop, sidewalks, solutions, suggestion, thorns, thorny, tip, urban
It shouldn’t take a whole lot of common sense to realize high-rise living can be perilous for pets, but this story out of Chicago serves as a vivid and tragic reminder.
A dog named Duke fell to his death from a 43rd floor balcony Wednesday morning — just three days after a cat, spooked by the dog, fell from the same balcony.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, the two cats lived in the 43rd floor unit with a man identified only as Ryan, and they commonly hung out on the balcony.
“I’d convinced myself thoroughly that there’s no way these cats would even slip off because they had that instinctual fear that right over this edge is a big drop,” Ryan said.
But during a visit from his parents, and their dog, Duke, one of the cats got startled when he saw the dog through the glass door, lost his balance and fell to his death.
Three days later, Ryan and his visiting family members had left the apartment, leaving the dog inside and, apparently, leaving the sliding glass door open.
Ryan, a 26-year-old musician who manages a video production company, said he was preparing to move, and had left a few boxes and chairs on the balcony.
“It created a ladder that no one was thinking of,” he said.
He, his mother, stepfather and sister went out to get breakfast and run errands. When they returned, Duke, a medium sized mixed breed dog, wasn’t there.
Ryan and his stepfather went to the balcony and peeked over the edge and saw police cars pulling up to the front of the building.
“He was in shock,” Ryan said of his stepfather, “and he was like, ‘Where’s the dog?’ and since this had just happened to the cat . . . I already figured the worst.”
Police are investigating the dog’s death, but are preliminarily classifying it an accident.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 6th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, apartments, balconies, balcony, cats, caution, death, dogs, duke, fall, hazards, high rise, highrise, living, perils, pets, safety
If you’re not noticing Greenies on your store shelves these days, that’s because their maker, Nutro Products, Inc., has restricted those selling them to veterinary hospitals and pet specialty retailers.
In a press release issued last week, Nutro announced the change applies to Greenies canine and feline dental chews, Pill Pockets and Smart Biscuits.
“…We believe that pet medical professionals at veterinary hospitals and well-trained, knowledgeable staff at pet specialty stores are best equipped to answer pet owners’ questions about our products, and to make the right recommendation, said Carolyn Hanigan, Vice President of Marketing, Nutro Products, Inc.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 6th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: benefits, chews, choking, dangers, dental, esophagus, greenies, hazards, intestine, lodged, nutro products, professionals, restricts, retailers, sale, specialty, treats, veterinarians, veterinary, vets
To find this one, I had to venture into the unfamiliar yet very tidy confines of marthastewart.com, where I came across this elaborate headless horsemen outfit that requires PVC pipe, children’s clothing, plenty of stuffing and lots of work.
Modeling it is Bob, who, according to his owner and the costume’s creator, is a Rottweiler-Lab mix that loves to get dressed up.
Keep in mind that not all dogs do. Some dogs enjoy the extra attention, and if the costume presents no hazards, go for it. If you dog resists efforts to put him in costume, don’t push it. On top of the other stress the night brings, putting him into something uncomfortable is asking too much.
Give him time to gradually get used to his costume — and your’s. Your dog may not immediately recognize family members when they’re disguised. Allow your dog to see and scent the costumes beforehand, and let him know who’s behind the mask.
And be wary of the other dangers the holiday poses for canines.
“We hear about more dogs dying or straying during Halloween than any other holiday,” said Liam Crowe, CEO and master dog behavioral therapist of Bark Busters USA. “…By being more sensitive to dogs’ fear-driven ‘fight or flight’ instincts, we can help keep our furry friends safe this Halloween.”
Bark Busters offers these tips:
— Don’t leave your dog outside. Even if you have a fenced yard, bring your dog inside where it is safe. If your dog is usually kept outside, bring him in a few times before the big night to get him used to being indoors. Your dog may be used to strangers, but remember that it is a natural instinct for dogs to protect the family from strangers, and on Halloween there are likely to be some pretty strange strangers.
— If your dog is timid or scared, or if he tends to love people a little too much, it is best to put him in a separate room away from the front door to limit his excitability, aggression, and chance of running outside and becoming lost.
— Reassure your dog. The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling unsettled by Halloween activities is to act as you normally would, and giving him a little extra reassurance and attention.
— Check your dog’s ID tag. Be sure identification tags are secure on your dog’s collar.– Keep candy away from your dog. Many candies — especially chocolate–are toxic to dogs.
— Protect dogs from candles and pumpkins. Excited or agitated dogs can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin. Be sure those items are away from your dog’s reach, or consider a battery-powered candle that does not burn.
— Be prepared. If you take your dog with you while trick-or-treating, be prepared at all times. Dogs do not understand that the person jumping out at you will not hurt you; they often think they can only help you by acting aggressively. Neither children nor adults in costumes should approach a dog without the owner’s consent.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 29th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bark busters, behavior, candles, candy, chocolate, costumes, dangers, dog, halloween, hazards, headless horseman, pet, preparedness, pumpkins, safety, tips, training