Introducing the Snunk! Pet, the advanced robotic skunk that's about to become every urban dweller's best friend! It's not just endearingly cute and meticulously clean-- the Snunk! is also an environmental watchdog, continuously removing dust, dander, and hair from your household and analysing it for trace amounts of common biohazards.
The Snunk! is a full-featured, next-generation robotic companion with a vital utilitarian mission. It is also my entry in the Viridian BioFuture Robot Dog (er, skunk) Contest. Click the full document link for the full entry!
Figure 1: The Snunk! Concept diagram
The Snunk! is a sleek skunk-like robot with short, silky-smooth black and white fur. It has a fully articulated head and tail, and four legs. It is configured and controlled via a USB or wireless connection to the Snunk! Pet Interface software on a host computer. With training, it can also be controlled using a set of voice commands.
In addition to various environmental sensors (see Figure 1 above), the head features an advanced mouth/tongue assembly that uses a water-based "saliva" to clean vaious surfaces in the owner's home: tile, carpet, upholstery, etc. The robot ingests dust and small debris through its mouth, collecting it in an internal stomach assembly, where it is processed into "litter": dried, tube-shaped cakes. During this "digestion" the litter is color-coded, via chemical reactants, to indicate the presence of any hazardous materials. When the internal litter chamber is full, the robot deposits it in a special litter box for collection and disposal by the owner.
How Does It Work?
Once the owner has "de-hibernated" and configured the robot, it will map out its environment, beginning with the included solar-powered charging station, food/water station, and litter box. It will ask for, and eat, a packet of Snunk! food, a non-toxic enzyme paste that will digest the collected debris and react with any hazardous material therein. The Snunk! will also drink a measure of water to activate the digestive enzymes and to create saliva. It must eat and drink daily to continue processing debris.
When the robot detects a drop-off in main battery voltage, it will seek out its charging station. The length of time between recharges will vary according to activity, of course, but the robot should need, on average, four or five hours of sleep per day.
The Snunk! is programmed to "ask" its owner(s) to meet whatever additional requirements it has: food, water, more light for the charger, connection to the host computer, and training are typical requests. It is also programmed with several strategies for providing companionship and entertainment to its human hosts in exchange for having its needs met, and it will tailor its behavior, over time, depending on the relative success of these approaches.
In other words, it learns how to get what it needs and keep its owners happy.
It is designed to be particularly endearing to children, and can be trained to play games and to accompany them on adventures outside the home.
As you may have guessed, the Snunk! is self cleaning. Its waterproof exterior is also hand-washable.
Why Should I Want One?
In addition to its primary utilitarian mission of collecting and analysing household dust and debris (a single Snunk! will keep a three-bedroom suburban house virtually dust-free at floor level), the Snunk! performs two other functions within the context of monitoring and domestic safety: it maintains a 30cm grid charting conditions in the home over time, which data may be analysed by the owner on the host computer; and it will alert its owner to any dangerous situations it encounters while making its rounds. It looks for spills, trip-and-fall hazards, smoke, and signs of intrusion, among other things.
With optional accesory packages it can provide realtime monitoring of conditions in the home and send alerts via pager or email.
Plus it's cute as a button! And even kinda sexy with that white stripe. Really, it's the best-looking (and smelling) skunk you've ever seen. And so clean!
How Can I Find Out More?
By reading the Snunk! Guide, of course! The first four chapters are available online:1) Setup
2) Daily Operation
3) Special Events
4) Accessories and Upgrades
You will also find several other documents of interest here in the Snunk! pet project folder, including my initial notes on the project, an ad featuring Marlin Perkins, and some thoughts about other useful and attractive future pets.
Super extra-skunky thanks to Lynn Rosetta-Cusick for reminding me about pole cats, and to Rebecca Stanton for turning me on to Kogepan. And thanks, Mr. Bruce Sterling, for asking. This is fun!
-- Chris Snyder (email@example.com)
By Chris "Psydeshow" Snyder on September 29, 2002 at 11:37pm