When Mark Trueno took his robot dog, Stampy, to Fortitude Valley on a Saturday night, he didn’t expect man’s artificial best friend to leave with a kick to the face.
But that’s exactly what happened. Not once but twice.
While the first stomp may have been considered an accident, a second, 45-minutes later, and from the same person, cemented it as well… deliberate.
“I'm not really sure why she did it, probably just thought it was funny at the time,” Trueno, an engineer who works for Arrowpoint Systems, a company that provides equipment to mining and military companies, told VICE.
And Stampy isn’t just a fun little robot. He’s actually a $15,000 piece of military grade equipment. A bare-bones system programmed to be used in dangerous conditions like search and rescue missions.
“This is a smaller version,” Trueno said of the pretty non-intimidating machine.
“So the ones you would normally send into dangerous situations are a little more hardy. They can get over larger objects, whereas Stampy can only go up normal sized stairs. If you wanted to get over rubble, or into a collapsed cave, then he would be okay for some applications.”
According to Trueno, bots like Stampy can be fitted out with gas sensors to check air quality, create 3D maps and generally go where humans can’t. Stampy also sometimes takes Trueno’s cat, Chairman Meow, to the park via leash.
But if you’re asking why someone would take such an expensive piece of equipment out in one of Brisbane’s rowdiest party districts on a Saturday night, it was to test its obstacle avoidance and 3D mapping capabilities. It was also 2:30am, well past the street's witching hour.
“I do understand people's perspective of saying ‘you shouldn't take it down into the valley’ and whatnot,” said Trueno. “But I don't have any mineshafts handy nearby for me to utilise the later intention for what we plan to do with this particular unit.”
Good news for Stampy’s redemption, though: A day after Stampy the dog was brutally kicked in the head, Trueno put a $500 bounty out for information on the culprit. The first person to dob her in was a man Trueno believes to be her friend. The same guy that was with her the night of the stomp.
“The other person is actually the one that contacted me and he, at the time, was really pissed off with her. So he clearly wasn't impressed with her behaviour,” said Trueno, who added that the man was actually contacting him on behalf of the girl.
“She contacted me a day later, and then spoke to me last night. And so effectively, the reward will go to them, but we haven't discussed it. We thought it would be more appropriate for that reward to go to an animal shelter for actually abused animals. I figure at least something good can come of it.”
Stampy’s damage – which included the loss of its 3D mapping data, and impairment of its depth perception sensors – came to an estimated $2500, he says that as the girl is quite young and may not have the funds, he’s not pressing her to pay.
“She has offered to….but I am undecided what to do in that regard yet,” he said.
While Stampy’s looks might be deceiving, the robot dog actually weighs up to 20kg, made from a combination of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. A fact that may have surprised its stompee.
“He's pretty sturdy. She gave him a good pump,” said Trueno.
“And when I spoke to her the next day, she said she almost broke a toe as a result. If you saw the video, I'd say he barely moved, so he did pretty well to stand up for it.”
Follow Julie Fenwick on Twitter and Instagram.
Read more from VICE Australia and subscribe to our weekly newsletter, This Week Online.