Remember those trendy robotic dog toys from a couple years back? Aibo and Poo-chi and the like? Well, sadly, after 6-year-olds tire of the novelty of electronic pets who can fetch balls, bark the national anthem and do silly little dances, there is not much left in the life of a toy robotic dog. Thats why we love Natalie Jeremijenko’s awesome eco / educational / engineering / art project which teaches students how to refurbish old toy robotic dogs and give them new life – turning them into lean green pollution-sniffing machines.

For the Feral Dogs project Jeremijenko has worked with numerous student groups to create packs of roving robo-dogs, which are “released” en masse into a community space to sniff out harmful VOCs, ozone, and other environmental toxins. The ‘packs’ of feral robotic dogs are designed to “patrol” sites of public interest like schools, parks, and industrial sites, in order to generate community and media attention on the issue on contaminants in the environment. Clever, cute, and fun – is this the coolest project ever or what?

+ Feral Robotic Dogs

I first heard about this project through the Cooper-Hewitt’s Design Triennial Exhibition (which is still up – go check it up before it ends in July). Imagine my surprise when reading about the Feral Dogs project I saw a giant photograph of Inhabitat’s own tech-guru Jeff Warren hanging on the wall of the Cooper-Hewitt. I’m not sure why this escaped our attention for so long, but 3 of the Inhabitat’s programmer possee (Vestal Design) were intimately involved in the beginning of the Feral Robotic Dog project with Natalie Jeremijenko: Jeff Warren, Diego Rotalde and Mike Lin – proving again that Vestal Design is the raddest bunch of eco-design-engineers on the planet.

In this video a student from the UCSD electronics department hacks a robot dog to sense pollution on the San Diego campus. The video is adorable – watch to see the dog bark at a dry-erase board marker!



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  1. Seafarinhare April 17, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Wow… That’s pretty cool, recycling used robo pets to sniff out pollution.

    As for Fear of God: As a Christian myself, I have to say that I honestly doubt your faith. First of all, tweaking toy robots to sniff out pollution isn’t a sin. If someone is gonna tweak them for the purpose of shooting Christians, or just people at large, they’re gonna do it without this leading up to it. Your argument holds no water. And second, laughing at other peoples’ suffering is hardly something that God would condone.

  2. Mike Lin February 28, 2007 at 4:36 am

    Thanks for the props Jill!

    Here’s a link to a page that has an image of a recent dog iteration created by Vestal:

  3. Jesse February 27, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Phenominal! Discarded toys as a base for semi-autonomous scanners discovering pollutants and environmental hazards. I applaud this project, both as a public relations/awareness piece and as a method of developing better enivornmental hazard discovery tools.

    FOG, I hope you were joking.

  4. Nick Simpson February 27, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Some of the inhabitants of the south of your country REALLY worry me…

  5. ash February 27, 2007 at 1:51 am

    dang! i wish i wasnt christian so i would burn in hell because of these little robots!

    (count me out of “all the christians will be laughing and pointing at you”)

    maybe you should get some help for your paranoia…

  6. Jo February 26, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Oh my god…. what an over-reaction!

    I hope fear of god was joking…. i think he/she is the crazy one…

    Dude, it was someones uni assignment. Get over it.

  7. Fear of God February 26, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy.

    They want our kids to get used to having “adorable” robots around to protect us from dangerous, but invisible, threats. Sounds like the liberals have done it again. If we let them keep doing these things, then we (and our CHILDREN) will be so used to it that, when they add guns or other weapons to these little dogs, we won’t complain. Guess who they will go for first? Yes, that’s right, the christians. I can hear it now: the adorable robots are here for your protection. Sorry buddy, not me. I will fight this tooth and nail. I am not angry about this, though, since it will quicken the second coming. Seriously, one of these days you pushovers will look up and see you are in hell. I and all the christians will be laughing and pointing at you with the baby Jesus as you burn forever. I’ll pray for all yall, but you’ll probably go to hell anyway.

    Just my two cents.

  8. jillian February 26, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Way too cool!

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