Sheepherding Resources

I am currently working at Massey University in New Zealand. The university has three campuses – Auckland, Manawatū, and Wellington. Wellington has the College of Creative Arts, which is where I’m working.

The Manawatū campus is the premiere veterinary university in New Zealand. A lot of Massey’s identity comes from it’s agri – vet, food science, farm engineering, etc. And while CoCA is the oldest (and arguably best, not only because I’m there) art school in NZ, there is still a patina of agri across all of Massey.

So I’m learning about sheep dog herding.

It’s very fascinating.

Bear with me here. I read a random scientific article a couple of weeks ago about sheep and sheep dog behaviour, and how using drones some scientists have started to research how the whole thing works. And while the article didn’t get very far, it did introduce to me the basic sheep dog commands: come by, away, lie down, walk on, etc. And the seed was planted.

By the way, one of the best websites I’ve found for sheep dog stuff is this one.

Here’s the thing that interests me: with sheep dog herding, you basically have a bunch of autonomous agents (the sheep), with their own behaviour. There is also a single autonomous agent (the dog), that has it’s own behaviour – but will respond to the owner’s verbal and whistled commands. If the dog is trained well enough. The natural progression is to make this into a game.

I’ve made some headway – the sheep behaviour is pretty rudimentary right now, but workable. They wander looking for food, and get nervous and scared based upon the presence of the dog.

The dog’s behaviour is a little trickier, but I’ve made some progress there too. It successfully corrals the sheep.

Most recently I’ve added the IBM Watson speech-to-text functionality, allowing the player to use voice commands. I’m in the process of iterating the dog’s behaviour to react.

After that, it’ll be refining the behaviours to allow for sheep and dog personalities, and lastly making a VR version. Just because.