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WATCH: UJ unveils ’robot dog’ with artificial intelligence

Published Sep 10, 2021


The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) has unveiled an agile four-legged, animal-mimicking robot with artificial intelligence (AI).

The robot, which the university hasn’t named yet, is one of two robots in the country. One was acquired by mining company De Beers.

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UJ is the first institution to have such a robot.

According to the university, it was positioning itself to drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and engraining AI innovations into its processes at the university and the continent of Africa at large.

During the demonstration organised by the university, after being powered on, the robot could sit, walk, climb stairs, run and even hop. It can be controlled using a remote controller or be programmed to move around on its own.

The robot was designed by Boston dynamics in the US, and the company named it SPOT.

UJ bought the robot from the company to develop robotics and to advance academic training at the university.

Director of UJ’s IIS, Babu Paul said the aim of the robot was mostly for academic purposes.

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“The first use will be for students to learn about AI, the second one is the university is going to use the robot for innovation purposes in collaboration with different industries. Applications will be developed by the university depending on the needs of the industries,” said Paul.

He said the robot can be used by industries in sectors like disaster management and mining. The robot came with sensing equipment to help navigate the terrain with unprecedented mobility.

“What we would like to achieve is the different industries to partner with us so that we can join hands to develop applications which will benefit both the academia and those industries.”

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The robot also came with a battery that fits underneath it. It’s a lithium-iron battery and has 55 volts.

The charging time of the battery is 2 hours and will last running a little under an hour and a half.

When the robot is idle or sitting, the battery life can go up to 180 minutes. It also came with a 180-degree camera and attachments.

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Picture: Itumeleng English.

UJ Masters student in AI and Robotics Devakshan Naicker said working on the robot has been amazing as he can see AI in motion.

“I can play around with it and test theoretical designs and applications on it. That’s a great feeling. You mainly work with schematics and codes but to put those on something physical and have it move around is something amazing.

“The dog is very approachable, it feels like a pet dog, but at the same time, you need to keep your distance as it is a machine. It works as you need it,” he said.

Paul said, if there was a demand for more robots, the university could look into getting more.