Our neighbor came by the other day and gifted us with something she’d been holding on to for a while — an animatronic dog that she’d bought for her nephew but never given him. This seemed like particularly fortuitous timing, since lately there’s been so much talk around the house of getting a dog. (“I want to skip the baby, and go straight to the dog,” Nathan has told us several times.) The box proclaimed (repeatedly) that this toy was as close as you could get to a real dog without, you know, getting a dog; it’s supposed to respond to fifteen different verbal commands, as well as its own name. So even though it was six years old, we thought we’d give it a try.
Even before we opened the box, though, both Dave and I were of the opinion that speech recognition has come a long way in six years, and the same can probably be said for the other aspects of programming a fake dog. I also couldn’t help but notice from the box that Lucky (the dog’s name) would get bored if it wasn’t played with, and begin to demand attention. I don’t actually feel the need for another one of those in the house.
Fortunately I’ve yet to be harassed by a bored fake dog. Our expectations for the dog were just about correct; it’s movements are the only thing more clunky than its speech recognition. Nevertheless the kids have gotten some hours of enjoyment out of it — mostly Nathan, whose voice seems the most well recognized. (Every time I’ve seen him pick it up and give it a hug, though, I’m desperately tempted to get him a real dog.)
So far my favorite aspect of the dog is that it interprets the command “jump on Ryan” as “tug of war.” This means that if we set it next to Ryan, perhaps as we’re waking him up from a nap, and say “Jump on Ryan!” the dog will crouch down and begin to inch forward against him and growl. Ryan seems mildly annoyed by this, but I find it very amusing.