Credit Reuters. This story has been around for a few weeks, but someone at Reuters recognized the oddity factor and decided to run a story on robot wolf deployment in northern Japan.
Within hours the story spread across the world, being picked up by everyone from the Guardian to the New York Post, from Vice to the Verge. This is because scarecrows are old news, but robot wolf scarecrows are eye-catching.
Like traditional scarecrows, they were designed to keep farms safe. Rather than keep birds from eating crops, these are designed to keep larger creatures from eating produce. And now, people.
Japan already has dozens of the creatures mounted at various farms. They consist of a robotic frame covered with an artificial pelt and muzzle. Motion and sound sensors are incorporated throughout its design, triggering a response when creatures of sufficient size are near. When it detects an animal, its eyes flash red, the legs and head move, and one of many different wolf sounds is played. Wild boars and deer hurry away.
In 2019, there were more than 150 wild bear attacks of humans throughout Japan; many of them were fatal. This year, a town in northern Hakkaido, Takikada, noticed that bear sightings had sharply risen from their usual one every few years along the outskirts of the village to more than ten seen roaming the streets. After consulting with the robot wolf designers they decided to try one.
Since the wolf has been installed, there have been no new bear sightings in the town… but the recordings from the wolf have shown they aren’t simply due to a return to their statistical rarity; bears have been captured turning and leaving after being confronted by the robot. Because bears are predators, though, the jury is still out on just how effective the mechanical beasts will remain as deterrents.
So, it’s a helpful and nonviolent device. But most importantly… it’s a robot wolf.
Question of the night: What is the first wolf (or wolf variant) you can think of which hasn’t been mentioned yet in the comments?