NELLIS AFB, Nevada — The initial fielding of Air Force tactical robot dogs revealed a potentially critical glitch: The dogs are depressed by their unfulfillable need to lick their non-existent gonads.
On a recent exercise, robot dogs impressed observers with their capabilities to maneuver and provide information to human handlers, all without constantly stopping to sniff and urinate.
But Staff Sgt. Jessie Browning, a robot dog wrangler with the 622d Contingency Response Wing, noticed odd behavior in his programmed pooch “RobotSpot.”
“We finished a game called ‘IED fetch,’ and RoboSpot flopped onto his haunches, lifted a hind leg, and tried twisting his torso down towards his crotch,” Browning said. “There was real sadness in his big, glassy robot eye sensors when he realized he had no balls to lick.”
“He rolled over on the ground, and I swear all his little gears made a whimpering sound,” said Browning, "it broke my heart."
Dr. Albert Russell, a robotics designer at the Air Force Research Laboratory accompanying the exercise, said that his team should have considered the concept of mechanical gonads.
“Robot dogs have traits of Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Air Force Special Tactics squadrons,” he said, “and self-gratification is a significant talent in all of those forces.”
Behind him, RoboSpot humped against a crate of grenades.
“At least we got that part of being a special operator right,” Russell said.
Browning and other handlers expressed frustration that designers gave robot dogs the abilities to run, jump, and even kill all day but missed this basic aspect of male dog life.
“Now I can never hear that old joke about a dog licking his own balls 'because he can," Browning said. "It hurts too much because it's not true for my poor little guy. I mean sure, if he had them, we'd have snipped them off.”
"But better to have licked and lost, than never to have licked at all, right?"
RoboSpot scratched his head assembly with a mechanical back paw with impressive speed. Browning wiped away a tear, bumped a fist against his chest and called, “I feel you buddy, I feel you.”
Switched to a “sleep mode” to preserve battery life, Robospot was on its back snoring loudly, apparently dreaming, and kicking into the air.
Russell stated that RoboSpot’s reaction will influence a planned robotic security patrol cat, because “none of us trust them, and they’re already totally pissed off about doing any kind of work at all.”