Servos fired in perfect unison, propelling the aibo forward on his four legs. It would have been so much easier to give it wheels like a robotic vacuum cleaner, but that wouldn’t be very dog-like, would it? Instead Buntley walked in a gentle arc across the room, holding his head up proudly while keeping good balance. His sensors constantly scanned the area looking for potential barriers, and Mrs. Mad Scientist cooed affectionately as the young pup headed straight for a wall. “Is he going to bump into it?” she whispered almost reverently – not wanting to distract the puppy’s earnest travails. Her other-half snorted and frowned. “He’d better not. With all that electronic jiggery-pokery he’d better be able to avoid something as obvious as a wa… … …”
At that very moment Buntley, whose nose was a hair’s breadth away from the wall, stopped dead in his tracks. Mr. Mad Scientist cheered and clapped. “You see? You see!! What amazing jiggery-pokery!!”
As if to press home the point Buntley paused for a moment in apparent deep thought and then, with a complex collection of sideways, backwards and lateral moves, he adeptly turned through 180 degrees and walked away from the looming obstruction, confidently gathering pace. Mrs. Mad Scientist shook her head in mild disbelief. “That was very clever…”
“I told you! Didn’t I tell you he’d be amazing? I said he’d be able to navigate around his environment autonomously! I said he’d perambulate in a fully automatic fashion hitherto unwitnessed by anyone other than the greatest roboticists!!” (Mr. Mad Scientist was known for over-complicating his utterances when he got excited.)
“Yes dear. Yes, you did” came back the calming reply, and at that exact moment Buntley crashed paw-first into the rug in front of the fire. So violent was the jarring stop that the aibo almost face-planted into the deep pile, but he rocked back on his rear paws, barked twice, and shook his head. After a brief pause, he tried to walk forward again, more cautiously this time, and once again his paws slipped off the rug’s surface and he made no progress. The robo-puppy seemed confused at his lack of forward motion and he tilted his head to one side before slowly lowering his chin towards the floor. He seemed to contemplate the existence of the low barrier in front of him for quite a while before finally lifting his chin.
“Go on Buntley, work it out boy…” Mr. Mad Scientist murmured the words through tight lips while prowling around behind the robot to get a different vantage point. “That’s right. Think Buntley, THINK!” Mr. Mad Scientist’s excitement was palpable and he scratched the greying whiskers on his chin as he moved back to his original viewing position. Mrs. Mad Scientist frowned at the distraction and turned her attention back to the aibo, whose eyes appeared to be flickering and rolling as if in deep thought. “Look dear!” she said as she subconsciously took her husband’s hand. “He’s about to do something!”
Buntley took two careful steps backwards and then five deliberate sideways paces to the left, firing his rear-paw servos at precisely twice the energy of the front ones. This maneuver caused the puppy to be standing adjacent to the colorful hearth rug. Once again, he paused.
“Arf, ARF!” he proclaimed and expertly shifted his weight to his front legs. Then, delicately, he lifted his right hind leg and electro-peed all over the rug – a strangely metallic yet watery sound emanating from somewhere deep inside his plastic body.
“No Buntley, NO! Bad Boy!” Mrs. Mad Scientist threw up her arms in disgust. Her mood was only slightly better when she realized there was no actual pee – it was more of a virtual bowel movement. “Well!” she exclaimed, exasperated, “That is gross!”
Buntley looked over his shoulder in her general direction as he finally lowered his leg. His eyes seemed to sparkle and he blinked in the cutest of fashions. In a moment she was smitten once more…
Missed Part 1 of the story, read it here.