The image shows a four-legged robot that is moving across a hillside while steering a herd of sheep and there’s not a human in sight. This is what the juxtaposition of future where agrarian and technology meet would be, right? This footage has been released by Rocos that announced its partnership with Boston Dynamics recently.
The four-legged robot is none other than Spot. Rocos is in the business of creating software that can be used for controlling the robots remotely and the video shows a potential use of its expertise. The company said in a blog post, ‘Equipped with payloads like heat, LIDAR, gas, and high-resolution camera sensors, Spot navigates rugged environments to capture data in real-time. In agriculture, farmers can access information such as more accurate and up-to-date yield estimates. This provides access to a new category of automation, and a safer, more efficient business.’
Right, so the video is a fun teaser but it does make one wonder; how would robots fit in this scenario? The answer comes from a sheep farmer and author James Rebanks who wrote a book back in 2015 talking about life as a shepherd in England’s Lake District. Rebanks said, ‘The robot might be an amazing tool for lots of things but it is worthless and unwanted as a sheepdog. No one who works with sheep needs or wants this — it is a fantasy.’
He adds, ‘Moving sheep isn’t just being behind them, it is about doing whatever the controller asks, and sometimes what needs doing based on [the dog’s] own intelligence beyond the handler’s control. A shift to the left or right of a few inches can turn the sheep, and a great dog can judge their characters and how much to do or not do.’
He further added while commenting on Rocos’ video, ‘If you watch carefully the sheep are breaking and taking the piss out of it — within a week they would be laughing at it. Sheep have intelligence and will quickly work it out and completely disrespect it.’ What do you think about this? We believe that we would prefer a companion and properly trained dog for sheep herding!