WATCH: Meet smWoef, the latest robotic dog from the University of Pretoria



Published Nov 30, 2022


Cape Town - As technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, robots are becoming a tool that most corporates are looking at to ensure accuracy and speed in analysing data.

The latest robot at the University of Pretoria, smWoef is currently on show at the 2022 World Engineering Education Forum (Weef) and the Global Engineering Deans’ Council (GEDC) Conference being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES), based in Washington DC, hosts the conference in different locations each year - and Cape Town is the first-ever African host.

The South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE), as a member of IFEES, is co-hosting this event with the University of Pretoria and Central University of Technology, in conjunction with the South African Engineering Deans’ Forum.

Professor Sunil Maharaj from the University of Pretoria is the general conference chair.

The conference was initially supposed to take place two years ago, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and is now running from Monday, November 28 until Thursday, December 1.

smWoef is on exhibition at the conference to educate delegates about available technology and its possibilities.

Speaking to IOL, Jordan Mostert - a civil engineering technologist who is doing his internship with the Department of Science and Innovation at the University of Pretoria - said the robotic dog was manufactured and imported from China.

Mostert said smWoef is being used for engineering applications.

“We want to see if we can use him for crime scenes. He is going for ethical training and to investigate a simulation of actual corpses to see what kind of data – visual, atmospheric and DNA can be collected,” Mostert said.

He said there were ongoing developments with the university’s electronic engineering department regarding the development of an electronic nose that can assist such a robot to react to different airborne chemicals.

“smWoef already has vision cameras in the front so he can lock onto a subject and follow it. So, if we can mount the electronic nose, he can follow the scent of a chemical,” Mostert explained.

He said that smWoef recently went on an expedition to the ZZ2 farm orchards to determine whether he could analyse data regarding its avocados.

“He walked through the orchards and equipped with his GPS, visual senses and 3D scanner, he could see the avocados, some of the health conditions of the trees, and related phenotyping information. It was a successful expedition,” he said.

Mostert said they would also like to use the robotic dog in pavement analysis using laser technology - and while he may be small in stature, smWoef can withstand tough terrains.

smWoef was named by the Dean for EBIT at the university, Professor Wynand Steyn, and the sm stands for smart.

smWoef also has some neat tricks as he flips, dances and stands on his hind legs like a real dog.

In 2019, the university employed its first client service robot used in any university library in Africa called Libby.

Libby weighs 19 kg and is 90cm tall - tall enough to interact with visitors in wheelchairs.

Libby has over 60 sensors, cameras and software integrations which enable her to receive and process various commands and requests from those visiting the university’s Merensky Library on its Hatfield Campus.

In 2021, the University of Pretoria’s Health Science Faculty welcomed a mobile robot that would improve the treatment of patients during the Covid-19 pandemic named Stevie.

Stevie, who is employed at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s ICU, was named after South African struggle icon, Steve Biko.

Stevie assists with the treatment of patients through instant live discussions and daily communications between German and South African ICU teams.