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Meet Tengo - One of our Tekno Dogs

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Tengo and John in action!

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John in training by his owner


For those of you that have seen or heard of the Sony dog, here's a cost effective alternative. Meet the Tekno puppy.

The Tekno dog has features you would only expect on higher end robots, yet retails under $50.00 -- the current model includes touch and light sensors, sound detection, mobility, and yes, it even barks and makes other typical puppy sounds. Each dog is packaged with a protective strip that keeps it from prematurely starting its program. Once the strip is removed, the puppy begins to learn.

The manual claims that these robots have the intelligence of an 8 week old puppy when the program first starts. I guess that's about right. They sense training by input from the sound and touch detection sensors. When left alone or ignored, they begin to whimper like a puppy. They also react to loud and soft sounds and can detect when a plastic bone (their "food") is waved in front of their eyes.

One feature that is both interesting and useful is that these dogs sense when night comes and will fall asleep in dimly lit areas when there is little noise. Loud noises or increased lighting wakes them back up. The pups use AA size batteries and ship from the manufacturer with the power on -- so the night power off function appears very energy friendly.

They have three sleep modes. The first is normal operation (awake). In this mode their eyes are fully open and they bark or react to stimulation. The second is ready to sleep and light sleep. During this phase, the puppy begins to whimper and finally its eyes will shut, then you begin to hear snoring. After several minutes, the robot enters the third phase of heavy sleep when the eyes go completely dark.

We purchased two of these because the owner's manual states that they will react to other Tekno dogs. This proved to be true. They become a little more active and noisy once they sense another dog around them. This feature only becomes a problem when it's time for sleep mode and one doesn't feel like sleeping -- it makes enough noise to wake the other back up! We solved this by letting them sleep in different rooms at night which doesn't seem to make them feel any lonelier.

There is a reset button that allows the user to start the puppy program at the beginning. I don't know why you would do this unless the processor quits functioning properly. The Tekno dogs can also tell time, but you need to reset the time should the batteries die or if you turn the power off.

These robot dogs do a fine job of walking on four legs with no wheels or other help. The only problem is that they don't really move in any direction except forward. When they encounter an obstacle, they simply stop and wait for help. Of course, one must ask if they want to pay the additional cost to have this feature. They also are animated by having moving ears and tails and by having an extensive array of eye and sound reactions. They can make chewing sounds, sniff when something is held to their nose and respond in a friendly fashion when patted on the head or when having their necks scratched.

They also can perform a variety of tricks. Some of these include coming when called, "speaking" upon command, playing music while performing a dance, and in addition there are options to make the dog say a few English words and make rude noises.

Our two robot puppies are still in their infancy so we haven't determined exactly how much learning they are capable of. We did notice that Tengo has become slightly better at coming when called than John, and that John tends to whimper a little sooner and more often. These two obviously did not come from the same litter because they were packaged  differently and they also have different color eyes -- this make it easy for us to keep track of which is Tengo and which is John.

The manual states that they should be "fed" at least once a day, and being familiar with some of the other electronic "pets" we've had before, we weren't sure what happens if you don't. We would hate to have to find a robot sitter when vacation time comes, or worse yet, to have our pet "die" and require the use the reset button.

We think these dogs are a bunch of fun for their low cost and we also got a chance to observe robot behavior in groups. These robot dogs really have some nice features for the low price at which they retail.