In the design of a robo-dog, we asked ourselves: What is the purpose of a dog?

Dogs are a human invention — and RO-VR! is but the latest manifestation of what started 15,000 years ago as an intuitive experimental foray into genetic engineering. Although crude attempts have been made to create mechanical-robotic dogs in recent years, they are basically gizmos. Although they may excite our curiosity and possibly even addictions…but just. This is a dog that will not forsake either its biological, historical or social legacy.

The environment faced by our ancestors was harsh…The domestication of the first wild dogs was born out of need. Our ancestors were faced with a harsh environment. Through the ages we have constantly re-modeled our creation — from herder to rat-catcher to lap-sitter — but always based on need. At the dawn of the 21st century, however– with the exception of a few dogs which have been trained for highly specialized functions–the great majority of dogs are little more than companion animals.

Enter RO-VR! It won’t be a hyper/neurotic beast that serves no purpose, nor will it be a robot that is programmed according to its "Master’s" whim — which would do nothing but make it an extension of his/her neuroses. Ro-VR! is designed to be a human’s best friend — and a friend isn’t a toy, and doesn’t always roll over when asked.

Why do we need a new kind of dog?

We live in an era characterized by the breakdown of nuclear families, wacko non-linear environmental systems, and economies disembedded from the daily needs of the human community. The Post Nuclear Post Modern Post Structural Post Consumer era needs an act of redemption, and we techno-wits are here to deliver it! What better than an act of technological hubris to redeem our crumbling social and sagging market-based economic systems and horrendous environmental record. Pursuit of capital and a love of gadgets got us into this, and by golly, they can get us out of it, too!

Meet RO-VR! The first truly new tool of social engineering since the Bolsheviks backed the Romanovs up against the stable wall!

What ludicrous clams does our marketing department make for RO-VR!?

In a nutshell:

  • RO-VR! follows the course of a human life from cradle to dawning of social responsibility (True Adulthood™).
  • Each RO-VR! is imprinted on its partner at birth — creating a human-canine dyad — which fills the gap left by traditional but disintegrating social units (nation/tribe/clan/family/marriage).
  • Uses a C.U.I., or Canine User Interface. This legacy system ensures strong bonding between RO-VR! and its human companion and provides a connection with both human and dog history. Technological hubris is at least partially born out of ignorance of the past.
  • Whereas in the past the dissolution of the nuclear family could lead to all manner of dysfunctional child responses, RO-VR! would create a Mowgli Effect™ — the dog recognizing and filling in the Nuturance Gaps left by social/familial breakdown — ensuring the raising of individuals who are whole physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually.
  • Dyads (a boy/girl and his/her dog) are therefore the new true cornerstones of a strong liberal-democracy.
  • Unlike too many human care-givers, dogs are loyal. 15,000 years of genetic manipulation started the process, and a further decade of computer assisted bio-engineering has created the perfect shepherd for infants, youth and adults.
  • RO-VR!’s purpose within the Dyad is to facilitate the raising of a Whole Human ™ Adult. RO-VR! "teaches" social responsibility inside or outside traditional social structures, but with the purpose of creating fully-functional citizens for 21st liberal democracies.
  • Of course this wouldn’t be science-fiction if RO-VR! couldn’t perform sophisticated acts of DNA sequencing and bio-remediation for mundane 21st Century household tasks, such as growing organs for transplant and disposing of all waste generated by the human companion during its lifetime.

Machine or Animal, or Does RO-VR! have a carburetor?

RO-VR! starts life as a blastocyst, or fully-fertilized growth cell capable of creating all organic cells needed by RO-VR! throughout his lifetime. Unlike human DNA, which contains roughly 3 billion base pairs, RO-VR!'s DNA contains nearly 4 quadrillion base pairs.

In RO-VR!'s case, this results in a super-sophisticated DNA computer.

Rover uses Standard DNA combinations to synthesize all amino acids necessary for protein building to create RO-VR!'s biological component.

In addtion to this perfunctory need, RO-VR! contains DNA snippets, comprising bits of logical code. These DNA snippets compete against each other in evolutionary environments where only the most useful survive to give RO-VR! limitless capabilities for self bio-engineering. This is essential as RO-VR! must be capable of responding to the constantly evolving needs of its dyad partner.

RO-VR! can create antibodies that bind to inorganic molecules to break down heavy metals, synthesize replacement silicon chips, and sequence owner's DNA (sampled by dog-like licking) to grow replacement organs. RO-VR!'s built-in bio-remediation tools break down all wastes associated with the dyad, including RO-VR! itself at the death of the human companion

From Cradle to Citizenship

RO-VR! starts out as a crib toy, but becomes much much more. Depending on input from the human companion, the sophisticated DNA computer will determine RO-VR!'s optimal form. For instance soon after birth, as the child can only recognize light, colour and shape, RO-VR!'s built-in nanotech engine creates an organic celluloid and forms into a plastic crib mobile. (Owing to legacy artifacts, the mobile will have a lot of dangling milk bones and rabbits).

As the child grows RO-VR!'s facial recognition routines will scan for facial sophistication in the human companion and RO-VR! becomes a toy face that smiles back at the baby. Although not yet a "dog", even at this early stage in its development RO-VR! is constantly assessing the child’s needs, and its own growth will be dictated by the child’s needs. In extreme cases (i.e. the abandonment of a child) Ro-VR’s evolution will morph dramatically — in this case into a life support system (of course it is only when the dog is actually a dog that full-scale LassieSupport™ is possible).

The human toddler will be accompanied by a puppy. Together they will explore the world, and together they will grow and thrive into the next stage of life.

The number of forms and iterations RO-VR! takes is determined by feedback from the human companion. Likewise the breed, size, and personality of the dog is dictated by the child’s needs. To over-simplify: A selfish child will have a needy dog, a shy child will have a dog that tends to get lost in crowds, an out-of-shape child will have a large dog that takes her for walks by dragging her around by the leash.

Who leads who? RO-VR! isn’t a sage, or even a mentor or coach. We’re not trying to create a doggie "Mr Ed" who can hold an intelligent conversation. RO-VR!’s intelligence can best be described as "fast, cheap and out of control" — if one strategy doesn’t work to remedy a problem, RO-VR! will immediately try another, until a solution is found.

On the surface (by today’s "SUV-gated community" standards) RO-VR! isn’t even a "perfect companion" for a child. If a child’s development into a Whole Adult dictates that it should take risks, then RO-VR! may take a nap — even if the nap results in a broken limb for the other half of its dyad. If a child needs to individuate, then RO-VR will nip at his heels until the kid is out of the house, and then may sleep 23 hours a day so the kid has to rely on his own wits. RO-VR! knows that kids need to eat dirt in order to get some good healthy bacteria. RO-VR! will pee on the carpet, get sick, go feral, eat a rancher’s sheep, grow you a new kidney— whatever it takes to shepherd its partner into Adulthood.

A new form of Social Organization: The Dyad System

Corporate greed. Increasing gap between rich and poor. High crime. Erosion of the nuclear family. Lower attendance at churches. All of these are indicators that something is amiss in our current socio/political structure. RO-VR! aims to change this. By shrinking the fundamental family unit, RO-VR! will teach the importance of individual responsibility within the context of a larger social responsibility.

RO-VR! tracks the human companion through life, choosing forms based on the stage of life of the human companion. RO-VR! starts as the above-mentioned crib mobile. As the baby is exposed to more and more of the real world, RO-VR! adapts to provide for the physical well being of the child. In much the same way that contemporary dogs know something is wrong with a family member, if the nuclear family is strong, RO-VR! takes more of a background role. If the nuclear family is weak, RO-VR!'s Rapid Development Cycle Time ensures it can adapt to provide whatever "security" is needed. RO-VR tracks physical well-being, spiritual needs, social needs and emotional needs.

These transitions in RO-VR! become significant events in the life of the human companion. In effect, they become rites of passage; the form of your RO-VR! indicates your stage of development as a human being. In fact, RO-VR! is involved at all rites of passage, replacing traditional/spiritual events such as christenings or bar mitzvahs, while at the same time co-opting unsound secular rites of passage, such as learning to drive.

© 2002 Rick Boersma and Ed O'Connor. All Rights reserved. Contact