This Cattle-Herding Robot Will Put Dogs Out of Work

As the automation era unfolds around is, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that no jobs are safe—not even those belonging to dogs. Introducing Swagbot, the world’s first herding robot.

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Developed by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney, SwagBot proved successful in its first field test. The robot, described as a “motion platform for cattle station operations,” can pull heavy trailers and traverse across rugged terrain. Eventually, the autonomous machine will be used to manage livestock on Australia’s sheep and cattle stations, which are often located in hard-to-reach regions.

During the recent trial, the robotic cowboy demonstrated that it was capable of herding cattle and navigating its way around ditches, logs, swamps, and other obstacles.

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Image: Australian Centre for Field Robotics
Image: Australian Centre for Field Robotics

With this phase complete, the researchers will turn their attention to teaching SwagBot to recognize animals that are sick or injured. It will be equipped with temperature and motion sensors, which will allow it to detect changes in an animal’s body temperature and gait. It’ll also be able to steer the animals towards fields with sufficient pasture to graze on.

SwagBot sounds all fine and well—but will it cuddle up next to you after a hard day’s work?

[New Scientist]

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George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

Oh, man! So many things.

1. That is not a heavy trailer! a 16" stock trailer with 4 horses or several head of cattle is a heavy trailer.

2. Not so much herding the cattle as spooking and scattering them.

3. A stock dog will run up & nip a heal of a stubborn cow (or bull) and duck out of the way of the resulting kick. This thing gets too close to a bovine that doesn’t want to move, and it will end up in dozens of pieces.

4. waterproof drive system? Better be. But you didn’t show it. Only the wheels got wet.

5. Rugged terrain? Where was that? I didn’t see any.

I better stop & go back to work.