The robot dog you see above is a mystery. [Daneil Dennet], a professor of philosophy at Tufts University found this in an antique shop in Paris. Apparently it has no identification and no one has been able to tell him anything about it. It was made in the 50s, and that seems to be all he knows. He’s offering a reward to whomever can reveal its secrets. There’s a full gallery of pictures to browse through that reveal some of the construction, but not a whole lot of the function.
We are just blown away by the construction here. Look at all those switches! Can you imagine how easy to reverse engineer things would have been back then? Surely in the right hands, someone could get this thing working again. Then again [Daniel] might like it kept completely original. If you know something about this robot, you can find [Daniel]’s contact information here.
Oh, and yes, we realize it looks just like k-9.
108 thoughts on “Amazing 60 Year Old Robot Dog Is A Mystery”
obviously just an early model of K-9, tell him to wait a couple hundred years and hell find out its history
looks more like jimmy neutron’s dog, Goddard.
I was thinking the same thing when I first saw it.
It reminds me of K-9 on the older Doctor Who
Why choose between keeping it original or repairing it? Why not copy it with all new materials?
Yes! I agree.
K-9! Didn’t think I’d see you again here, now!
This thing is all kinds of awesome, it should be in a museum.
Indiana? lol. The dog’s name was Indiana.
It is already in a museum. It is in the museum of the web where everyone can see it instead of being brought out every 20 years at some gallery managers whim and then mislabeled.
That’s pretty sweet!
404… meh ill try again later
Wow, I have the feeling I’ve seen this thing before, but I can’t remember where…
Yeah, I think I’ve seen a picture of it in an old book from the 70’s by something like Paulson or Powelson perhaps? IIRC there were blueprints too but for a different dog with a full cowling.
The relays and tag boards look like pretty ordinary telephone exchange stuff to me. If so it shouldn’t be too hard to find spares for it.
Same here. I feel I have seen this before. But maybe from the 60’s.
me too i feel like i know it from somewhere like Ive seen it but cant remember where the memory is like fading in my head……..
is the site down or something? looks very cool. hopefully it becomes operational without adding newer than 1955
Funnily enough I heard Daniel talking about this dog in abit more detail whilst flipping though the i,robot bonus dvd the other day
Odd, I am getting 403 error. =\
It looks very reminiscent of Grey Walter’s tortoises, but clearly more complex. Perhaps built by him or a student who worked with him?
While it does look reminiscent of Gery Walters’
turtles it does not appear to contain any valves
as his did. The use of relays suggests to me that
it is a sort of discrete state automaton.
Since the original pictures link doesn’t seem to be working here is another showing more detail:
I’ve spotted some early GE germanium transistors amongst the photos, so it’s early solid-state.
Well spotted! Here is a link to a page about the GE 2N43 Germanium transistor which first became available in 1953:
You can see something like one of these at the lower right of the 8th picture up on the cyberneticzoo page
And the picture above appears to show a bank of 2N107s.
We really need a circuit diagram!
The early transistors might have become available in the mid 50’s, but that does not mean they were easy to get and cheap immediately, as you can tell by how long TV’s ran using tubes rather than transistors (although that was because of the higher voltages too of course).
I’d also say this thing might be from the (mid) 60’s like a few others that commented suggested.
Is there any indication that it does anything at all, apart from simply roll or do quarky movements.
It all looks to pretty to be functional. I think its a movie prop with very very limited and non-automated movement if any.
It mostly reminds me of steampunk constructions of nowadays.
In 60 years, this story will be about a millennium falcon, having realized that Starwars is rubbish and having forgotten all about that horrid piece of spacepulp.
Thats what I was thinking, mabye its just a mostly nonfunctional art piece just made to look like a robot dog, like a comment on the future, the mechanization of man, etc, etc, etc… real neat looking though.
Haha, maybe you’re right.
I suspect it was functional (or at least intended to be). Things like the transistors and wheel position encoders don’t add much to the look, but would be important if it was intended to actually do something.
It reminds me of the battery-powered toy dog character in Maggie and the Ferocious Beast (I have kids, they happen to like the show)
It looks like the stuff of nightmares. Probably on par with the Daleks. Definitely don’t want to meet it in a dark alley.
Has Hackaday just slashdotted its first site?
nope, we’ve crushed a few in our time. They just notified us that they are fixing some caching to get the site back on line.
I remember reading an article several years ago about a guy in the 50s or 60s who claimed to have made a robotic dog that could find its charging station with blinking lights. I believe he was an animal behaviorist, and he was trying to show complex behavior erupting from simple rules before it was trendy. This looks like how I remember the picture from the article.
William Grey Walter. He built tortoises that could indeed do that. But this was not one of his creations.
while the main site remains down you can check more pictures at:
Hmmm….since someone mentioned K-9, is there a chance that anyone might have or know where a set of drawings and schematics could be found. I’ve always wanted to try to build a replica.
All this years I wondered where my spare parts ending up all the time! Grandmaaaaa!!!
did you check the permissions correctly?
It’s not real, it’s just art. It was covered by TechTV (back in the day).
I swear, this thing was pictured in one of my school textbooks years back.
Could it be this robot dog from Paris described in the May, 1930 Popular Science (p. 48):
“Robot Watchdog Fights When Light Hits It”
@Devon – Interesting article, but someone’s mentioned germanium transistors in it. Got to love the article a few pages further down in that issue: “Do Beavers Rule on Mars?” …fantastic stuff :)
That Popular Science mag is awesome.
Very much agree. Theres so many little gems hidden in that particular one. Mentions of and early traffic light design to replace traffic cops caught my attention.
Transistors are here to say it’s younger, certainly 50’s or 60’s.
I heard of the dog you’re talking about and I saw a picture of it (unable to find it again, sorry). It was a four-legged machine attached to its kennel, raising on its rear legs and barking, but no wheels.
Given the apparent complexity of wiring, I wouldn’t say it’s only a piece of art, but I definitely can’t say more for now…I’m going to ask on a french electronic forum. There are a few electronic veterans there that could have heard of it.
The robot dog you refer to is the early version of the 1928 French “Philidog” see here http://cyberneticzoo.com/?p=368 . For all these robot creatures, see here http://cyberneticzoo.com/?page_id=41 .
The gallery doesnt have the right permissions needed for accessing
he needs to try and run it. i saw some batteries sticking out of one side, he should pop in some new ones and see what it does!
This is on a book that you can buy on Amazon.
So it is a troll then? Disappointing.
Some variation of man would consider mister Dennet to be a troll, but that is mainly because of that individual erroneous believes and lacking moral fiber.
Somehow I do not think the information he is requesting is “It’s the dog on the cover of your book”.
Check out the author of that book and the name of the guy trying to find information on it.
Aw darn, that’s where I know it from! I was really hoping I’d remember something useful. Fooey.
so yeah, they author used it on a book cover…this proves nothing either way as to its creation
The only mention of it’s age I can find is on HAD. Why do we assume it’s made in the 50’s? It’s pretty common for individuals to use materials or tech in construction before their ‘official’ invention date or try and intentionally antiquate something.
So who came to the conclusion that it was made in the 50s and how?
It reminds me of the dog from Nightmare before Christmas
The carriage reminds me of a GE canister vacuum cleaner from the mid 50’s.
The picture on the cover is also Dennet’s dog: http://books.google.com/books?id=G2iYMnSuhL4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=brainchildren&hl=de&ei=OhFLTpKwDMXMswar1tDABw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=cover%20image&f=false
Interesting. Looking at some of the additional pictures, you can see that this thing is littered with a ton of switches, some even integrated on at least one wheel. That makes me think it’s at least crudely “programmable”.
See this link : 144 pages
This is : Tati
195x – “Tati” the Cybernetic Dog – owned by Daniel Dennett (built in France / Belgium ?)
from : http://cyberneticzoo.com/?p=5358
Please see original post.
Boy meets Girl. Boy graduates MIT. Boy gets job at IBM. Boy slowly goes insane with repetitive tasks for what seems an eternity. One night, while sleeping in the garage due to marital distress, Boy finds broken Hoover vacuum cleaner. Boy steals parts from job, Boy spends nights assembling “new best friend,” Boy shows pet project to Boss, Boy gets promotion in exchange for rights of ownership, Boy takes Girl out to dinner to celebrate, Boy meets Girl again.
I’d be very surprised if it was actually designed to work and wasn’t just all aesthetics…
Yeah, a lot of these parts look like old telecoms components.
You can get pretty elaborate behaviours with a simple array of electrochemical “memistors” and relays, even up to something that would take an FPGA nowadays to duplicate.
Shame it doesen’t work, it would be interesting to see what it does when powered.
looks like dennet is the one to contact. there is a cartoon of him with the mechanical dog.
ok, that’s the guy looking for info on the dog… duh
Steempunk meets Sony AIBO ;)
Sony sues steampunk.
It has no sensors or analog gates, the lights just light up and it has switches to control direction for motor polarity.
Whoever made it was exceptionally talented in multiple fields though. Whoever made it is dead or retired by now.
The page on cybernetic zoo hints that the selenium cells function as a sort of directional control sensor cluster.
I see parts that could be wheel rotation sensors and maybe switches that activate if it bumps into something.
It’s purely lights, LV transformers, resistors, capacitors, junctions, and motors on the electric part. I looked too. Not a single sensor.
Looks like something straight out of the Eureka show. :)
That is one of the most buitiful things I have seen, I believe (mainly from the motor on the rear wheel and sensor on the front offside wheel) that this has basic functionality, looks like the mouth can be opened and closed also from the hook, though I would say 40 – 50% of the innards are for display purposes only or to “guild the lilly” as I would put it. It very much appeals to my desire to over-engineer everything I build :-)
Ultra Pedantic Dick Moment: It’s “Gild the lilly”, not “Guild the lilly”. A Guild is an association of (generally skilled) people, usually craftsmen. (Or, on the internet, an association of nerds.) To Gild is to very thinly overlay with something, usually gold. Thus, gilding a lilly would be covering it in fine gold leaf, which is–I believe–the effect you were going for.
The more you know!
It’s a misquote – the original Shakespeare quote is “to paint the lily”, not gild. Am I king of the pedants now?
Extra Ultra Pedantry:
The original phrase uses “Lily” (a flower) not “Lilly” (a person’s name)
…unless “Guilding The Lilly” is a personal phrase of Alex, in which case we’re both wrong ;)
That thing is awesome!!!
Pretty impressive, but what could be the power supply ? I cannot believe all these relay and motors are powered by the tiny red battery.
It looks like there’s a couple of light-sockets at the back, perhaps it was plugged into the mains via a cable?
I don’t understand why is everybody so excited about this. It’s just a vacuum cleaner with some wheels, a motor and lot of useless wires.
I had some books from the 60’s that showed how to build something like this including light-following function with 2 photo-diodes (the large ones, like vacuum tubes). I did it when I was 12 or 13 years old (had to convert the schematics for modern components like tranzistors and stuff).
It could be this, but it could be a historical piece like GEry Walters’ tortoises.
Someone sent me to look at Albert Ducrocq’s machines. Look at this article (in french, try Google translation) talking about Job, its artificial rat:
For all these robot creatures, see here http://cyberneticzoo.com/?page_id=41 .
Your statement is based on what facts?
Google Image Search FTW:
Looks like you found Daniel Dennett, the owner of the robot, and actually the guy looking after information about this robot.
You should try to read the articles….
It looks more like that robots from Tom & Jerry show…
I would place the thing into 1959-1965 period, based on latter type of 2N107 transistors (http://semiconductormuseum.com/PhotoGallery/PhotoGallery_2N107.htm). Schematics anyone?
I disagree that this device is nonfunctional.
Y’know how you can admire the steampunk aesthetic of ornate brass glued onto a watch face, but you get a completely different sensation when you look at an actual Victorian watch? That’s the impression I get when I look at this dog. I haven’t a clue what it’s supposed to do, but it’s very clear that it does something.
Every wire in those pictures appears to go somewhere. At least one gear attachment appears to govern head positioning, and another gear is in a suitable place to turn the eyes. The presence of transitors and selenium cells and what appear to be nearby coils/solenoids, plus the positional encoder that someone mentioned up there, does not appear to be coincidental. Transistors weren’t exactly cheap, and certainly not readily-available, at the time this thing was built. Printed circuit boards didn’t exist – the freehand wiring style (using terminal junctions and tiny wiring harnesses in preference to solder joints) is consistent with the wiring I’ve seen in a 1930s tube-based radio, and/or a 1950s tube-based oscilloscope.
If I owned this, I’d take a close look at it, figure out what sort of power source it wants, clean and lubricate the mechanical bits as best as I could, and with the utmost of care, power it up.
If it looks like it wants AC, use a Variac and a light bulb in series. If it wants DC, make damn sure you get the polarity right, and then try it for a second or two at 1.5V, 3.0V, etc, until something clicks, hums, or moves. Power it down and probe around it with a fingertip to see if anything’s getting unduly warm. Clean, lubricate, repeat.
Seems we have a number of good posts on this and that some of the previous posters have found the solution. So what about getting it confirmed by “History Detectives” on PBS? I’m sure they’d love to get their hands on this beauty, and they’d probably be able to provide an interesting story to boot.
Whoops, no solution found, just references to the man looking for more info on it. I’d still like to see it on “History Detectives” or some other show that digs up history on old things like this.
Some People who visit Bunnies Studios might have to say something about that dog too,
but that is only a guess, because i#ve seen people identifying circuits and parts just from photographs.
Looking at the plastics and the colorful PVC wiring I do not believe this was made in the 50’s.
The Squee electric squirrel – 1951 – the first true robot has very similar construction: squee 1951
Robots Squee, Rudy, and Franken 1952-1953 mentioned here:
Franken maze robot mentioned here:
blinkenlights berkeley report
Wow, at first glance you’d immediately place the two from the same maker. After I looked at the color photo however, I’d say squee is newer or at least a cleaner build. They do have an almost identical frame though.
For all these robot creatures, see here http://cyberneticzoo.com/?page_id=41 .
Squee was designed and built when Berkeley couldn’t get Grey Walter’s plans for Elmer and Elsie, later published in 1953.
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