Assessing A Robot Dog

What’s in a dog?  Why do humans really want to have them around?  I think different people would give different answers to those basic questions, and the different answers might just tell us whether a newly unveiled robot dog could become a successful product.

landscape-1510610204-screen-shot-2017-11-13-at-45550-pmThe robot dog is built by a company called Boston Dynamics and it’s supposed to be coming soon.  It’s called the SpotMini.  SpotMini’s inventors obviously weren’t trying to build something that looks as much like a dog as modern technology, materials, and design will allow — the robot is bright yellow and black, has no fur, and has a concave, camera-like gizmo instead of a head.   It’s a robot that clearly looks like a robot.  And yet, aside from the use of “Spot” in its name, the SpotMini does have dog-like attributes.  It’s got four legs, which are shaped a lot like dog legs, and it walks and prances in dog-like fashion.  I’m guessing that it barks, too.

So why do you have a dog?  For us, it’s companionship:  even though Kasey is slowing down, she’s still got a funny, unique personality that we’ve grown to love, and of course Kish enjoys putting Kasey on her lap and stroking her soft fur and making Kasey do embarrassingly undog-like things like wave her paw in greeting when I come in the front door after work.  Kasey’s a member of the family, and we get a real kick out of her.  It’s hard to imagine a yellow and black plastic and metal box with four legs replacing her, even if the SpotMini were programmed to have a personality.

But if your primary purpose in having a dog is security, the SpotMini just might do the trick.  If the robot can detect intruders and bark like crazy to wake up its owners, and then confront the intruders and freak them out when a black and yellow torpedo comes charging at them, barking all the while, you just might have a successful product.  And if the SpotMini.2 version has robot jaws that can chomp down on the right people, it might be even more successful.  I could see people buying a security dog that doesn’t need to be fed or walked or cleaned up after, or boarded when they go on vacation, or taken to the vet and prescribed pricey medication.

In the next few years, we’re going to be seeing more and more of the robot invasion of our daily lives, and it will be interesting to see how people, and social activities generally, adapt to the coming changes.  The SpotMini might just give us a peek at our yellow-and-black robot future.

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The Family Weather Differential

It’s cold in Columbus this morning.  It’s not really cold by absolute standards — at 32 degrees, it’s just at freezing, and a mere chilly precursor of the truly icy days that inevitably are coming this winter — but it’s an arctic blast by relative measurements, since only a few days ago the temperature was pleasantly in the 60s.

ios_weather_icons_1xWhen I checked my weather app to see exactly what the temperature was, I noticed that it’s a heck of a lot warmer in San Antonio, where Richard and Julianne and their dog Pretty make their home.  Down there in south central Texas it’s a fine 66 degrees right now, and I can imagine walking out into the San Antonio surroundings, clad in t-shirt and shorts, and thinking that 66 degrees is a nice cool start to the day — good for a stroll on the Riverwalk or, in Richard’s case, a jog.  Up in Detroit, Russell’s waking up to 36 degrees and a forecast of snow flurries.  And if you add in siblings and uncles and aunts, we’ve got Heidi out in Huntington Beach, California where it’s 54 degrees and the forecast is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 67, and Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack down in Savannah, Georgia, where its 50 degrees and the week ahead on the weather app features temperatures around 70 and lots of those bright, unclouded sun icons that you always like to see.

So, right now, Columbus is the coldest place in the family, a solid 34 degrees more frigid than San Antonio.  That’s why the weather app offers both the bitter and the sweet.  It’s not great to be here at the coldest location, but one advantage of having a trusty weather app and a a family that is spread out from coast to coast and from north to south is we can live vicariously through whoever is getting the best weather right now.  Later today, I think I’ll take an imaginary walk on Huntington Beach.

A Matter Of Degrees

The annual Webner Thermostat War has begun again.

The traditional summer armistice, when the parties have reached a prolonged truce on a suitably cool household temperature during the warm-weather months, is over.  The first salvo in this year’s contest was fired last night, after an ugly, wet, cold afternoon that turned into a wet, cold night.  When I turned in, the thermostat was set at a pleasant 69 degrees.  At 2 a.m., however, I awoke to a stuffy, overly warm room.  I padded downstairs to discover that the thermostat had been dialed up to an unearthly, sweltering 73 degrees.  Of course, I then nudged it back down to a slumber-friendly 69 again.

The parties will do battle over the thermostat settings constantly during the next few months, trying to find that happy medium where Kish is not too cold and I’m not too hot.  (Kasey, not being able to manipulate the thermostat, doesn’t get a say.)  The battlefield is over a matter of only a few degrees, and the fighting is focused almost exclusively on the nighttime hours — but when you’re talking about personal sleep comfort zones, fine gradations in temperature seem to make all the difference in the world.  I’ll happily throw another blanket on the bed to deal with cool temperatures, but I simply cannot get a good night’s sleep if the room is even a few degrees too hot.

Now that the War has started again, I guess it’s time to start thinking about my next offensive.

“Buddy Boy” And “Missy”

Recently one of my friends responded to an email from a colleague by addressing him as “buddy boy.”  It was the first time I’d heard that phrase in a while, and it was used perfectly, in line with the standards of my childhood.

00019748When I was a kid, there were definite gradations of parental reprimand.  Reprimands, of course, were different from punishment.  Punishment was typically physical, and could range from a swat on the behind to loss of TV-watching privileges to having to sit at the kitchen table until you ate all of the vegetables on your plate to being “grounded.”  Reprimands, on the other hand, were verbal, for offenses not quite meriting more vigorous discipline.  “Buddy boy” — as in “Listen, buddy boy” — typically was used with a relatively mild form of verbal censure, and when it was directed your way you knew that you had trangressed, probably by acting “too big for your britches” and presuming too much familiarity or expressing an opinion on some adult topic.  “Young man” was the next step up the scolding ladder, and usually was employed if you’d acted in an impolite or unmannerly way, often with respect to an older relative.  And the top form of reproach, which usually was reserved for some inappropriate public behavior, like at school, was to say your full given name, first, middle, and last.  When you heard that, you knew you were really in for it.

There was a similar reprimand ladder for girls.  The female equivalent of “buddy boy” was “Missy,” and the “young lady” replaced “young man,” but the top rung — the full name — was the same.

The reprimand ladder was an effective way of letting a kid know just how badly he or she had crossed the line.  Once a boy understood the censure spectrum, and then heard “buddy boy” directed his way, he knew he had screwed up, but his parents were really annoyed rather than furious.

Of course, these things change, and the “buddy boy” reprimand seems to have fallen out of favor.  In fact, if you run a Google search for “buddy boy” today, you learn from the top hit that it’s the name of a chain of marijuana dispensaries in Denver — so maybe the “buddy boy” message these days would be a little bit mixed.

Groom And Groomsmen 

Somebody asked for a family photo from the wedding.  The short answer is that I was so busy attending to the many duties of the FOG that I didn’t take one.  But here’s the next best thing:  a picture of Richard and his dashing groomsmen.  Right to left you got the best man, the groom, Richard’s friend since childhood Scott, and Richard’s grad school buddy Arthur.  They cleaned up pretty well.

Well And Truly Married

The weather cooperated, the beautiful ceremony went off without a hitch, the toasts are over, and the guests ate, drank, and danced with abandon.  By any measure, the Hill Country Nuptials were a roaring success.  

Now we wish Richard and Julianne much joy and happiness on their life together, which starts today with a honeymoon in Italy.  As for the rest of us, it’s back to the real world.

FOG Functions 

The father of the groom (or, as I like to think of myself, the FOG) doesn’t have a significant role in the ceremony, and on the wedding day doesn’t have any traditional obligations or assignments.  So, I’m trying to be useful and help out where I can — such as by loading up the car with stuff to take out to the wedding venue, fetching the high chairs for the youngest wedding guests, and ironing my shirt and the shirt of the best man.  I’ve also got the matching ties of the groomsmen ready to go.

Ironing also helps to calm the nerves as the big moment approaches.