Will There Be Robotic Dogs in your Future? Using Question Mapping to Help Reveal the Future
In this column, I’d like to demonstrate a strategic futurism technique I use called Question Mapping. It’s a technique I teach in our soon-to-be—re-released course, Future Like A Boss!
Question mapping is an exercise that opens one’s mind to explore different elements of the future without being unduly encumbered or influenced by the past.
With that in mind, here’s how I approach assessing the future of robotic dogs, the cuddly or not-so-cuddly creatures that will be by our side and part of our lives in the future.
Question Mapping Robotic Dogs
Let’s begin by imagining a scenario where a person in the future is taking their robotic dog out for a walk. So far, so good, but even this simple scenario raises far more questions than answers.
What’s the purpose of a robot dog? Is it used for protection? What kind of protection? Against what kinds of danger?
Why a robotic dog and not a robotic cat? Or monkey? Or bird? Or a giraffe? Or perhaps a humanoid robot?
How will a robotic dog respond when it detects danger? Will it first start to growl to let the owner know something is wrong? Will it bark? Will it attack by biting the person or animal it suspects to be dangerous?
Or will it operate far less like a traditional dog? Will we be able to talk back and forth to our robotic dogs in the future? Or will they communicate silently through text messages, video chat, or an elaborate audio-smart glasses holographic setup?
How situationally aware will these robotic animals be? Will they have the ability to deploy tiny drones so they can view the situation around them remotely? Will they have the ability to communicate with other robotic dogs in the area?
Does the right to bear arms extend to the point of owning a robotic dog that’s armed? If so, what will it be armed with? A traditional gun? A sonic blaster? A taser? A laser? Water cannons? Or something else?
Could robotic dogs be used to rob a bank or used in gang wars? Might one be used to assassinate a president, a king, or a prime minister?
Will robotic dogs have the ability to jump? Run? Swim? Fly? Climb the side of a building? Or all of the above?
Will we see a full range of robotic dogs in the future, from kid’s toys to business versions, from police department dogs to military dogs?
What will happen when a robotic dog meets a real dog? Or a cat? Or a horse? Or a mailman? What happens when a robotic dog meets another robotic dog? Will they sniff their way around each other?
Will we reach a point where most people own robotic dogs in the future? If so, what will be its killer app? What feature(s) will make it super useful, like picking up a pizza when I’m hungry? Or groceries? Or making Amazon deliveries? Or helping a small child fall asleep.
Thanks to this kind of Question Mapping, I now have an expanded mind and can focus more clearly on the future. I can easily conclude that robotic dogs will be all of these things and much more.
Let’s begin by focusing on just a few key features below.
Why Robot Dogs Make Some People Nervous?
Rudimentary robotic dogs have already arrived. They’re being tested to patrol the U.S. southern border and sniff out landmines in Ukraine. Their use as border patrol bots is making some people uneasy – likely evoking memories of when dogs were used in civil rights protests or perhaps the Metalhead episode of “Black Mirror.”
I have to admit, the version of the robot dog being tested for border patrol looks more like it came from the set of Terminator than the movie set of Benji. Since these dogs are unarmed and used for observation, it’s hard to see why there should be more objection to their surveillance work than with the deployment of aerial drones.
Dogs of War
Robotics, in general, will be an important asset in future battles on land, air, and sea. Robot war dogs – essentially four-legged robots with the dexterity to maneuver in difficult terrain – will be used primarily on land, and their utility will likely be confined to important and often dangerous work like searching buildings, detecting mines, conducting reconnaissance, and standing watch.
These war robots will be armed. Their “paws” won’t wrap around a weapon, and they won’t stand on their hind legs to fire – as that’ll be a job more suited for humanoid soldier-bots. Instead, deadly weapons will be attached to dog robots’ bodies, and AI will guide their shoot/no-shoot decision-making as they carry out their missions.
Seeing Eye Robot Dogs
One future application I’m really excited about is the use of robots as seeing eye dogs. A sight-challenged person might want a real companion dog at home, but they’ll likely use a more reliable robotic Labrador or Golden Retriever to assist them when going on a trek outdoors.
This application is really a no-brainer, given the technology already inherent in delivery robots from Amazon and others that are currently making their way into more and more of our cities.
Furry Robot Pets
Last but not least, we’ll certainly have robot dogs as pets in the future. Dogs with a service purpose will be the first to be developed, though, since it will be quite some time before most families will choose a robot dog over the real version, in spite of their obvious hygienic advantages.
None of us has a dog to serve our daily needs or wait on us hand and foot. Not yet, anyway. Instead, we choose to have dogs to refresh our souls and to faithfully serve as unconditional companions.
And that day, too, will come for robotic dogs. Electronic companies will produce designer dogs, taking orders for robot dogs that match specific attributes of real breeds. They’ll have the texture of a cuddly dog, and their AI will respond to our moods and our needs, just like a real dog does.
They’ll be programmable in many ways, able to take on the habits and nature of real dogs – as a watchdog, for example, with varying levels of aggressiveness, or to bark at the mail robot or check out other robot dogs they encounter on their daily walk.
Since Hollywood has given us images of evil skeletal robots – dogs and otherwise – it will take a little time to put robotic dogs into some reasonable perspective. In the future, some will be like Dobermans. Others will evoke Collies or Pekingese, each depending on their utility and purpose. Their image, fur, and facial expressions will be customizable to project their appropriate menacing, businesslike, or heartwarming intentions.
But for the most part, the robotic dog of the future remains a blank canvas, waiting for that unusual cutting-edge designer, and their true art and form to take shape.