Here we have proof, on video, that a Google-owned company is abusing dogs.
Robot dogs, that is.
Boston Dynamics, a company Google purchased two years ago, designs robots for the U.S. military and others. Here, in its own video, it’s showing off “Spot,” a robot dog that can traverse all sorts of terrains and withstand being kicked by employees without toppling over.
My first question is: Why, given it’s a heartless metal gizmo, does it still bother me to watch Spot get kicked? Why, given the kicks are part of testing the machine’s balance, is my first response to seeing an employee kick Spot, “What an asshole?”
Likely it’s because the machine, with its four legs, ever so slightly resembles, and is being called, a dog.
Likely too, it’s because seeing the machine take a violent blow brings to mind how dogs are often mistreated in our society — and how our response to that falls so far short of what we invest in machines that can be used for spying and warfare.
My gut reaction is illogical, and perhaps I shouldn’t be droning on about it. Perhaps it’s silly to get even mildly worked up over robot abuse.
But considering how robots may someday be in as many homes as dogs — and how often I already want to kick my computer — robot abuse may someday become an issue. Maybe, as we did with dogs, we will first create them then abuse them.
As a society, rather than spending all our money on creating new monsters, we should be spending more on looking at those that already exist inside us, and lead us to exhibit violence and so many other undesirable behaviors.
Boston Dynamics released the latest video this week, showing the electrically powered and “hydraulically actuated” robot dog climbing stairs, jogging alongside a human and generally exhibiting its agility. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs. See Spot run.
Watching it — even knowing full well it was a heartless machine — I found myself assigning canine traits to robots (canidaepomorphization?) “Look out. Don’t get so close to the road,” I said to myself. “There should be a fence for those robot dogs.”
What if one was to get run over, say by one of those Google mapping vehicles?
Google Car Hits Google Dog, the headline might say, assuming the story ever got out.
The disclaimer at the end of the video did little to put me at ease: “No robots,” it says, “were harmed in the making of this video.”
Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.
The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.
Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press
While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.
He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”
That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.
“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.
“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.
“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.
Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 13th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, books, books on dogs, children, childrens, death, died, dog, dog books, dogs, eric hill, good dog reads, illustrator, penguin, pets, spot, spot goes to the beach, spot's first walk, where's spot
You don’t know the face, but you may know the leg: A khaki-clad hunk of it often shows up — generally from the knee down — in photographs of Bo Obama.
The leg belongs to Dale Haney, who, when the First Family is too busy to walk the dog, assumes the duty.
As a keeper of the White House grounds for nearly 40 years, Haney has managed to cultivate relationships with the presidential pups — all the way back to Richard Nixon’s Irish setter, King Timahoe.
“They heard about me and they called me to come over here for an interview and I came and here I still am,” he told the Associated Press during a tour of the gardens on a rainy morning when first lady Michelle Obama — Bo’s primary walker — was out of town.
“I have him a little bit more” when she’s traveling, said Haney.
Before Bo came along, Haney had walked and played with President George W. Bush’s Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley. But he says he was most fond of Spot, an English springer spaniel whose mother, Millie, belonged to Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush.
“I do have a soft spot for Spot,” he said in an online chat in 2003. “I was there when she was born and now she’s back.” Millie gave birth to Spot at the White House in 1989; the younger Bush and his wife, Laura, put Spot to sleep in 2004 after she’d had several strokes.
Haney began at the White House as a gardener, then was supervisor of grounds maintenance and lead horticulturist before becoming superintendent of all the grounds last fall.
Besides helping out with Bo, Haney tends to the nearly 19 acres of lawns, trees and gardens around the White House.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 4th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: barney, bo, bo obama, dale haney, dogs, first dog, first family, george bush, grounds, groundskeeper, horticulture, horticulturist, king timahoe, michelle obama, millie, miss beazley, obama, president, presidential, pup, richard nixon, spot, superintendent, walker, walks, white house
A Massachusetts man told police he killed his bulldog Spot with a hammer because he could not afford to pay a veterinarian to put it down.
Charles Berube, 53, of Methuen, who had owned the dog for ten years, told police the dog had been sick for weeks, according to the Associated Press.
Spot had lost weight, had trouble walking and his legs were swollen, Berube told police. He said he couldn’t afford a veterinarian and didn’t want to burden a shelter with the animal, and that he didn’t want to see Spot suffer. The home euthaniasia took place last July.
Berube, of Methuen appeared in court Thursday on animal cruelty charges, and a jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: charles berube, dog, economy, euthanasia, euthanized, hammer, home, killed, massachusetts, metheun, news, ohmidog!, owner, sick, sick dog, spot, veterinary
Classic dog names — like Fido, Lassie, Rover and Spot –are continuing to fall out of use, replaced by more human monikers, according to the annual pet name survey by Veterinary Pet Insurance.
The nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance has again analyzed its database of more than 466,000 insured pets to find the most popular dog and cat names.
In 2008, VPI reports, Max, Bailey, Bella, Molly and Lucy were the most popular dog names. It was the sixth straight year Max has topped the list.
Only 13 dogs in VPI’s database went by Fido in 2008, placing the name at No. 2,866. Rover came in at No. 2,534.
In fact, VPI says, the list of most common dog names is beginning to look a lot like the list of most common baby names. Some of the most popular dog names — Bella, Chloe, Sophie and Bailey – also rank among the Social Security Administration’s most popular baby names.
Marley, we were surprised to see, didn’t make the top 10; maybe next year.
“Pets are often viewed as members of the family, treated like members of the family and, as a result, named like members of the family,” said Curtis Steinhoff, senior director of corporate communications for VPI. “Max may sleep on his owner’s bed, eat gourmet food and wear clothes to go out on the town. Rover probably does not.”
Since last year’s results, the most notable increase in any name has been Bailey, which was No. 9 in 2007. Other changes in 2008 include the addition of Sophie (No. 9) and Chloe (No. 10). Jake and Rocky fell off the list.
To view more names on the uncommon end of the list, visit www.wackypetnames.com. As for the most popular names, here are the lists.
1. Max 1. Max
2. Bailey 2. Chloe
3. Bella 3. Tigger
4. Molly 4. Tiger
5. Lucy 5. Lucy
6. Buddy 6. Smokey
7. Maggie 7. Oliver
8. Daisy 8. Bella
9. Sophie 9. Shadow
10. Chloe 10. Charlie
(Photo from pawpottery.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 7th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baby names, bella, buddy, cat names, cats, chloe, daisy, dog names, dogs, fido, human names, list, lucy, maggie, marley, max bailey, molly, most popular, names, pets, popular, rover, sophie, spot, veterinary pet insurance, vpi