Japan robotics and machinery company NSK looked to Microsoft's multipurpose Kinect for the missing piece of its robot dog puzzle. Can you really replace a lovable, super-cute dog with a robot, though?
The short answer? No, not yet.
NSK's idea of creating a robot dog that could emulate the functions of a seeing-eye dog has been in development a long time already. In 2005 the company's first prototype, the NR001, was little more than a proof of concept. With the NR002 in 2007, the robo-dog learned to tackle stairs. Now, it's walking up and down stairs at speeds approaching its human partner, and the added Kinect allows it to pull in visual data, too.
The ability to actually see and understand may just be the one leg up a robotic guide dog has over its flesh-and-fur brethren. Dogs are slightly colorblind to begin with, and can't tell the difference between, say, a red light or a green light at an intersection. Also, a guide dog isn't able to pull in navigational information from out of thin air and take whoever it's leading to a new location.
Of course, a robot guide dog wouldn't be able to hop up into your lap and lick your face without crushing your legs and sheering your nose off. So, there's that.