back to article Do androids dream of herding electric sheep?

While technology has helped cats take over the world (in terms of video clips at least) it is now simultaneously contributing to the demise of a small, yet respected, section of their canine foes, namely sheepdogs. A number of shepherds are turning to drones as a more efficient way of shifting their flock. Michael Thomson …

'it's hard to imagine anyone inventing a robotic cat to catch mice '

Now there's a good idea!

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Really?

You obviously have not watched the Tom n Jerry rendition of that recently.

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Facepalm

'In any case, it's hard to imagine anyone inventing a robotic cat to catch mice '

That's because mousetraps have already been invented.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Happy

you really have never studied that record of shepherding best practice have you - Shaun the Sheep

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cart before horse

invent the robomouse first, then deploy the catdroids. of course it'll take a while before we get to the whole "The old female cyborg who swallowed a digi-fly"

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Emergency Planning

"It doesn't bark, and it doesn't bite, it doesn't need feeding ..."

But can you eat it if you get trapped in a snow drift on a cold winter night?

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Terminator

Re: Emergency Planning

""It doesn't bark, and it doesn't bite, it doesn't need feeding ..."

...and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead er, your sheep are rounded up.

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Facepalm

Automated mouse catcher.

It's called a "mousetrap" and has been around for quite some time now.

Ok, it doesn't look like a robotic cat, but then yer sheep-herding drones ain't exactly collie-analogues now, are they?

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Re: Automated mouse catcher.

It's called a "mousetrap"

Exactly what I thought! Have an upvote.

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Re: Automated mouse catcher.

Ah, but imagine an RC-on-wheels, sensor-driven mousetrap that could go follow those pesky rodents! If the mere thought of a mobile trap constantly following them always keeping a respectful distance doesn't kill those mice either by sheer spookiness or by ludicrousness factor alone, nothing can...

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Another perspective.

Firstly, teh Dawgs do an admirable job of moving the food/lawn-mowers around when asked. With no barking or biting, ta you very much. And it's not at all "hands-on" for the operator.

Secondly, have ... you ... ever ... watched ... a ... cat ... stalk ... and ... KILL! a rodent? It's quite robotic. Fun to watch :-)

Both dawgs & cats are self-guided. Use them wisely. They are your right hand in farming.

On the gripping hand, radio-controlled automatons are subject to remote operator error.

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I have to say a big thumbs up for............

...........the Phillip K Dick reference.

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Boffin

Re: I have to say a big thumbs up for............

> ...........the Phillip K Dick reference.

um isn't "gripping hand" => Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle?

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Re: I have to say a big thumbs up for............

I think Arctic Fox was referring to the article sub-heading, not the previous poster.

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Re: I have to say a big thumbs up for............

Of course! Have a rec.

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How would the animals perceive the robots? This claims to be from an 'experiment', but I think it's someone messing around with Aibo cruelty... http://www.maniacworld.com/AIBO-vs-dog.html

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Bark? Bite?

Easy enough to fit to a drone.

Especially the 'bark'.

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Robotic cats?

Do they catch robotic mice? And I now present to you ... ta da! ... rTom and rJerry!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Robotic cats?

" rTom and rJerry!"

Hasn't there been an episode with a robotic cat trying to do Tom out of a job? Or possibly a robotic dog - or am I getting confused with the Wallace and Gromit "A Close Shave"***

***Shock, horror that film was made in 1995 - 20 years ago!

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FAIL

No shit Sherlock!

"The reality is that a good sheepdog is a far better way to go about the job," said a spokesman.

Now compare with a drone operator/shepherd with the equivalent number of years training and practice at the job. Or give someone a dog and 30 minutes training and see how well they do at herding sheep.

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Terminator

Re: No shit Sherlock!

Early versions of a technological solution often are inferior to a trained specialist. But what they provide is ease of access. The early crossbows were inferior longbows in pretty much every way, but you could give them to a mass of peasants and teach them to use it in an hour - a longbow took a lot of practice. This iteration of a sheep-herding drone might not be as good as an experienced sheep farmer and a grown, trained sheepdog. But you can go into a shop, buy one, and suddenly the year or so of raising and training of a sheepdog is unnecessary.

And after a technological solution has made something mass-available, the next step is often parity in performance, finally followed by replacement.

Can you tell your sheepdog to go out at particular hours of the day and move your sheep around without you? I would imagine a sheep-herding algorithm is fairly simple in the grand scheme of things.

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Re: No shit Sherlock!

"But you can go into a shop, buy one, and suddenly the year or so of raising and training of a sheepdog is unnecessary."

Really? Any technologically illiterate sheep farmer can "go into a shop and buy one", and suddenly be able to dispense with the dawgs? What colo(u)r is the sky in your world?

It's not "a year or so of training", it's a lifetime of running the farm. Puppies learn from the adults. Farmers aren't exactly "I want it NOW" kind of folks ...

"Can you tell your sheepdog to go out at particular hours of the day and move your sheep around without you?"

Why yes. Yes I can. And that's "dawgs" not "dawg". They know the routine, and follow it. Including opening and closing gates when necessary.

HTH, HAND

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Re: No shit Sherlock!

>>"Really? Any technologically illiterate sheep farmer can "go into a shop and buy one", and suddenly be able to dispense with the dawgs? What colo(u)r is the sky in your world?"

Yes, eventually. As I wrote, that is not the case now. That IS where things lead. And I'm English so the colour of the sky is generally "grey" since you ask.

Also, I don't know why you suppose a sheep farmer should be technologically illiterate. This isn't the Eighties anymore. People who can't use a drone are a minority now, I would say.

>>"It's not "a year or so of training", it's a lifetime of running the farm. Puppies learn from the adults. Farmers aren't exactly "I want it NOW" kind of folks"

I'm pretty sure that it IS a "year or so of training" for a sheepdog to go from puppy to useful animal. If you're arguing for it actually being longer than this or multi-generational (puppies learn from the adults), then you're making an even stronger case for people to adopt drone approaches than I am!

>>"Why yes. Yes I can. And that's "dawgs" not "dawg". They know the routine, and follow it. Including opening and closing gates when necessary."

I don't believe you. You can't decide that on Monday to Friday you want sheep in field A at 7:30, but on Saturday to move them over to field B at 15:00pm and have a sheepdog take care of all that unattended. With a drone, that is foreseeable technology.

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Re: No shit Sherlock!

"Yes, eventually."

You don't actually know any farmers, do you?

"People who can't use a drone are a minority now, I would say."

Post proof or retract.

"I'm pretty sure that it IS a "year or so of training" for a sheepdog to go from puppy to useful animal."

The older dawgs do the work as the pups learn the drill. Lather, rinse, repeat.

"If you're arguing for it actually being longer than this or multi-generational (puppies learn from the adults)"

Which is how it works. Growing mutton on a large scale isn't something that happens on a whim.

"then you're making an even stronger case for people to adopt drone approaches than I am!"

Nope. Unless you think that purchasing a drone (or eight) and a thousand or so sheep will automatically make you a successful sheep rancher. In which case, you are completely deluded.

"I don't believe you. You can't decide that on Monday to Friday you want sheep in field A at 7:30, but on Saturday to move them over to field B at 15:00pm and have a sheepdog take care of all that unattended."

You obviously don't understand farming. The critters work best (and are tastier!) on a set schedule.

"With a drone, that is foreseeable technology."

Of course it is. But dicking around with the critters internal clocks will make them taste like ass.

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Re: No shit Sherlock!

>>"You don't actually know any farmers, do you?"

Nope. Now tell me how that invalidates a statement that drones will continue to improve in capability.

>>"Post proof or retract."

Inductive reasoning. People have been able to fly toy planes and toy helicopters for decades. Drones are no harder than these. Actually, the better ones are noticeably easier. Why would there be some special exception for drones. Flying a drone is easier than all sorts of things people do routinely. Ergo, most people can fly or rapidly learn to fly a drone. Ergo, this is not a barrier to drones being successfully used.

>>"The older dawgs do the work as the pups learn the drill. Lather, rinse, repeat."

Well there you go - I was saying it took at least a year investment to train up a dog. Now you're telling me it's actually a multi-generational investment. So that's even more of an advantage just being able to buy a drone has.

>>"Which is how it works. Growing mutton on a large scale isn't something that happens on a whim."

I have no idea what you think that has to do with anything I wrote other than it leads me to think what you're somehow hearing is someone saying farming is trivial and getting angry.

>>"Nope. Unless you think that purchasing a drone (or eight) and a thousand or so sheep will automatically make you a successful sheep rancher. In which case, you are completely deluded."

See previous point - you somehow are hearing things I've never said at all. I've just said that I think it very probable that drones can replace sheepdogs and automate some of the herding work in a way that a sheepdog cannot.

>>"You obviously don't understand farming. The critters work best (and are tastier!) on a set schedule."

You obviously don't understand what you're reading. I just made the argument that drones will be able to adapt to complex schedules without human intervention whereas you are trying to counter-argue that by saying animals work best to a set schedule. I know - that's what I just wrote: animals get used to a set schedule. Drones will be able to work to any schedule you program without it making any difference.

>>"Of course it is. But dicking around with the critters internal clocks will make them taste like ass."

I don't believe for a second that shifting schedules around a bit makes sheep meat taste discernibly different and just because your drone will be able to vary its schedule doesn't mean you have to be moving sheep around every half hour. It's a capability that is useful from time to time which sheepdogs don't have because sheepdogs can't read an online calendar.

What I'm hearing from this and your previous posts, is someone who either loves sheepdogs or considers sheepfarming a specialist career, getting angry with someone who points out that technology is making some aspect of it easier. And not actually reading what they say very well, either.

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Drone Vs Ram

Occasionally a ram will make a bit of a stand against a single dog if he's out with the girls but usually not for long, two dogs which many shepherds use are normally too much for any ram unless it's been on too many psilocybins, on the other hand floating your expensive drone a foot away from a recalcitrant ram will provide you with many spares for the next one you (have to) buy.

Those things can get to be quite snotty.

The above based on a little experience on a friend's farm in Wales.

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Re: Drone Vs Ram

All the male critters on this property were hand-raised by cognizant humans[1], and do what we tell them to do. Even the roosters.

[1] Except the humans, of course. We're an ornery lot.

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Predator

Unless it comes with Hellfire missiles, it won't be much good defending against predators.

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Re: Predator

I disagree: pretty much all wild animals will back away from a noisy human-made machine.

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Push button kitty

with Tom and Jerry

Inspiring a drone/sheepdog Borg hybrid perhaps? Get Supervet to replace the legs with quad rotors and go from there

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