UK scientists to unleash Aibo-killer

The RS-01 RoboDog, developed by British scientists, will dwarf Sony's Aibo when it is announced next week

A UK robotics startup hopes to start a scrap with Japanese electronics manufacturers by taking the leash off what it claims is the world's largest and most powerful robot dog next week.

The dog, RS-01 RoboDog, measures 82cm by 67cm by 37cm, making it more than twice the size of Sony's Aibo, and more of an automated attack dog than robot pooch. In fact, RoboScience -- the UK firm that has created the robot -- claims that its dog is powerful enough to carry "crateloads" of Aibos on its back.

The creators of RoboDog say that it will come with a host of cutting-edge features too. Speech-recognition technology means that the dog will follow commands with the precision of a prizewinner and an on-board camera will also allow the creature's owner to track its progress. RoboDog will even be able to read out email messages to its user, according to RoboScience.

RoboScience says it will make a limited number of the beasts available to UK consumers later this month, but has not yet put a price on the mechanised mongrel. The company also hopes to market the technology high-risk industries such as bomb disposal.

Chief technical officer Nick Wirth -- an ex-Formula One racing car engineer for team Benetton -- has led the development of RoboDog.

The craze for robotic pets has blossomed over the last few years with the introduction of Sony's first Aibo robot dog in June 1999. A string of other manufacturers have learnt Sony's trick including Sega and Tomy. Sony recently updated the Aibo range with a second model in October 2000.

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