Reverse Engineering K9: The Lovable Cobot Dog from Doctor Who

GettyImages 673543412

Via Mouser

Collaborative robots, or cobots, have been appearing on screen since the beginning of TV and film, from the Superman and Twilight Zone episodes in the 1950s and 1960s to Star Wars in the 1970s to the Terminator films in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. Of the hundreds of robot characters that have been on TV over the years, one of the most recognizable, especially for watchers of the long-running British science fiction program Doctor Who, is “K9,” the lovable cobot dog.

K9 appears throughout episodes of Doctor Who in various forms (e.g., K9 Mark I, II, III, IV). For much of the show, the character travels alongside different versions of the doctor (the protagonist of the series) and assists in completing complex tasks using advanced robotic tools and capabilities, including a laser concealed in his nose, encyclopedic knowledge, and vast intelligence.

Although K9 is said to be from the year 5000, many of the highly advanced (and at the time, fictional) capabilities he possessed are now a reality in 2018. So to have a little fun, let’s explore what present-day technologies we might be able to find if someone were to take apart and reverse engineer K9.

Artificial Intelligence
Any avid watcher of the Doctor Who series would agree that K9 is highly intelligent. In addition to interacting dynamically with other characters throughout the series, K9 performs a variety of complex tasks. For instance, in one season, K9 Mark IV is off in the outer reaches of the solar system stabilizing a black hole (obviously, he’s familiar with Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum mechanics).

In another instance, K9 is tasked with looking for a cure to a virus. One example of his intelligence that is perhaps more applicable to the world we live in today occurs in an episode where K9 is watching a chess game and informing players of which moves are optimal (this is something Google recently made a reality). K9 Mark II also exhibits the ability to sense and warn others of impending danger. All these capabilities point toward advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software applications, such as machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and predictive analytics, many of which can be found in cobots today.

See more!

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.