SHOUTING "Go back Rover, you mongrel!" often doesn't have much effect on working dogs, and will definitely have no effect whatsoever on the Robotic Rover.
This may be disappointing in a machine that in its prototype form is worth about $1 million, but then the Robotic Rover shouldn't be prone to a dog's errors of judgement.
In fact, the idea of a robot herder, recently run through proof-of-concept testing on a Camden dairy herd, is partly to remove human judgement from the herding process.
"Removing human judgement from trafficking speed will allow us to ensure that cows are only ever herded at a pace that is comfortable, even for the slowest cows," a background document on the Robotic Rover says.
"A slower pace of herding will allow cows to arrive at the dairy in time to be milked out without necessarily being yarded and the last cows having to stand on concrete for an extended period of time."
Herding at cow pace, rather than impatient farmer pace, would also mean less effluent in the dairy yard and more on the pasture, the backgrounder notes.
At present, the Robotic Rover is little more than a nickname for a robotics research platform called Shrimp that was introduced to a paddock full of dairy cows.
The cows responded to Shrimp as they would a farmer on a quad bike, and the machine was able to herd them to the dairy yard.
Collaborating researchers from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics and the Dairy Research Group, both housed at the University of Sydney, now have to flesh out the concept into a commercial reality.
Shrimp is designed to test robot perceptions. The platform bristles with sensors, "including monocular, stereo and panospheric colour cameras, thermal infrared cameras, 2D and 3D LiDAR sensors, a sophisticated scanning RADAR system and geopositioning sensors".
A commercial version of the Robotic Rover would shed most of these sensors, and most of Shrimp's million-dollar price tag, and focus on the core business of mustering cattle.
Over the next two years, an ACFR team will look at refining the robot herder concept, making it more terrain-aware and developing algorithms so that the machine knows how to respond to sick cows or other unusual situations.
If commercialised, the robot may also eventually carry pasture monitoring equipment, be able to detect oestrus or illness in cows, and other chores that liberate the farmer for jobs requiring human input.