YouTuber buys an AI bot dog, enters it into a dog show

“I believe this is the future of pet dogs, and I am going to prove it.”
Sejal Sharma
Zac Alsop with the robotic dog 'Roobot'
Zac Alsop with the robotic dog 'Roobot'


As it turns out, you can teach a robot dog new tricks.

On a whim, 26-year-old YouTuber Zac Alsop bought a Unitree Go1, which is a $2,700 quadruped AI companion robot. It’s basically an autonomous robot which looks and acts like a dog. It doesn’t bark, doesn’t poo, doesn’t bite or go on a must-sniff-everything spree. But Alsop didn’t buy the machine so he could have a companion. He already has an adorable dog named Roo.

"I believe this is the future of pet dogs, and I am going to prove it," said Alsop as he talked about his plans to train the AI bot dog, which he started calling ‘Roobot,’ over the next three days to win a dog competition with real canines.

Alsop took the task very seriously

He sought the help of Gina Pink, an accredited instructor in the U.K. who trains dogs for dancing and obedience competitions. He also sought the help of a choreographer and actor friend who helped him put together a dance routine for the competition.

After three days of hilariously rigorous training, the D-day finally arrived. At the competition zone, it was interesting to watch people’s reactions as Alsop trotted around with Roobot. Some were confused, some freaked out, while most looked on with amusement.

When the time for the contest came, Alsop and Roobot did their little routine. People were almost left rooting for the robot dog and the human training and dancing with it. But alas, they didn’t win the competition.

One of the comments on his now-viral YouTube video read: “Zac really reminds you that the worst thing you can hear when you have crazy ideas is a polite ‘no’ and that your over-exaggerated anxiety sometimes stops you from doing so many fun things because you just too scared of a simple polite ‘no.’”

With a subscriber base of 1.25 million on YouTube, Alsop performs such entertaining antics on the daily. He once freaked out ‘pet-friendly’ Uber drivers by bringing an actual snake, owl, and tarantula into the car. In another one of his videos, he got a 70-year-old man to pose as a distant relative of Giorgio Armani so he could get inside a fashion show.

The Unitree Go1 is not a new machine

Researchers have used these robotic dogs previously to teach them new tricks.

The robot comes chock-full of sensor machines. One of them is a foot force sensor which measures the impact force whenever it makes contact with the ground. There’s also a suite of cameras surrounding the robot to help it see and observe. It has an Inertial Measurement Unit so that it can match the direction and orientation of the human it is following. It also has a microphone and a speaker in case one wants to communicate with the dog-bot in a long-range format.

A worthy competitor to the China-based Unitree’s robotic dog is Boston Dynamics’ Spot, which is also a four-legged robot that one can use to navigate tough terrain and automate repetitive tasks.

There’s a long way to go before these robot dogs become completely autonomous. Perhaps then, Alsop could attempt to enroll another one in a competition where the future robodog might actually have a chance at winning.

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