Astro the robot dog kinda sorta looks like a real dog

Florida Atlantic University decided a head, tail, eyes and ears were a good idea.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Astro looks ready for anything.

Alex Dolce

There's a spectrum between cute and creepy when it comes to robot dogs. Sony Aibo: cute. Boston Dynamics SpotMini: creepy. We've finally discovered some middle ground: Florida Atlantic University's Astro. 

Astro is a four-legged robodog that responds to voice commands. He can move forward, stop and sit on command and doesn't have the urge to go chase squirrels. 

The robot's anatomy mimics that of its real-life canine inspiration. "Astro is unique because he is the only one of these robots with a head, 3D-printed to resemble a Doberman pinscher, that contains a (computerized) brain," FAU said in a release Wednesday

For comparison, Sony's Aibo robot dog carries most of its electronics in its body and Boston Dynamics' SpotMini has an optional extending neck, but can just as easily go headless.

The university shared a video of Astro in action going for a stroll on a lawn.

Astro is trying to think like a dog thanks to artificial intelligence and deep learning technology in his computer "brain." The research team behind the robodog wants to teach him to respond to hand signals, colors and multiple languages while also recognizing different people.

The uses for a robot like Astro are many. He could sniff out explosives residue for law enforcement, act as a service dog or be an assistant for first responders. 

The FAU team, which includes psychologists, neuroscientists, artists and biologists, hopes to make Astro so smart he can make decisions on the fly based on a database of experiences.

Unlike Sony's dainty Aibo robopet, Astro isn't much of a lap dog. He weighs 100 pounds (45 kilograms). He's still in the equivalent of puppy school for robots, but he could grow up to be quite a bit smarter than the average robodog.

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