Unwilling to leave his dog Darwin home alone while he was at work, Microsoft Robotics Team developer Jordan Correa came up with an unusual solution: building a remote-controlled robot doppelganger that could dispense treats, throw and retrieve a ball, and video “chat” with the dog on Skype. DarwinBot was created using the Parallax EDDIE hardware platform, its features implemented with Microsoft’s Robotics Developer Studio 4. As you can see in the video below, it’s essentially a mobile table with a Kinect for navigation, a tablet and camera for video connection, and some special hardware like a ball-launching robotic arm.
Correa isn’t the only person to come up with ways to connect with a pet through telepresence. Earlier this year, we saw a robot that would let you remotely groom your cat. Besides the possibilities for virtual interaction with the real world that these robots demonstrate, what we’re really impressed with is the extent to which the pets accept them. Sure, Darwin seems a little nonplussed, but he’s a lot more sanguine than we would be about being approached by a claw-equipped robotic creature with a loved one’s face and voice.