The negatives of having a live pet could drive more people to selecting a robotic pet. In the end, it will be a personal choice.
Can a Robot be a Pet?
Len Calderone for | RoboticsTomorrow
If you never had the experience of owning a pet especially a dog, you are really missing out. When you enter the front door, your dog is usually the first to greet you with its tail wagging. Sometimes, it will run in circles around you to get your attention, and the dog will roll over so that you can pet its tummy. Some people are cat people, who like the fact that their cat will ignore them unless it is hungry or wants to rub against them.
Having a pet is great except that it has drawbacks, such as walking the dog or running to the grocery to get cat food. Maybe, your lease won't allow a pet. For those people, a robotic pet is the ideal companion. Some live pets can be trained to obey or perform tricks. Others seem to totally ignore you, whereas robotic pets are already programmed to communicate with or acknowledge the owner. If you prefer a hands-on approach, some highly-advanced robotic pets can be trained by the owner just like a new puppy. A robotic pet can also speak, whereas only a few birds can accomplish that feat; but who wants to carry on a conversation with their cat?
More than half of the people in Western societies own a pet. While robotic pets may not carry out the real-life features desired by some people, robo pets certainly do have their own advantages. We already have seen our kids playing with virtual pets on their smart phones and computers. Could robotic pets be far behind?
Grooming a robotic pet is no more difficult than dusting a piece of furniture. You also never have to worry about changing your pet's water or feeding them. This is important for busy executives. You don't have to rush home to avoid the dog from having an accident, or cleaning your pet's living area. My dog has a sixth sense when it comes to bath time, causing me to search under the beds, and then getting soaked as my dog shakes the water off.
A robotic pet won't bite or scratch you, just because. They won't sharpen their claws on your new sofa, or chew the leg off of the dining room table. You won't have to cover your bird at night, or put the cat out, who is sitting on your chest in the middle of the night. Your robotic friend won't have to go to the vet or die, leaving you in a state of emotional heartbreak.
Robotic pet technology will soon be sophisticated enough to cover our emotional needs. Robotic dogs, for instance, will have social intelligence, providing what people need from their dogs, such as companionship, love, obedience, dependence.
So, what kind of robotic pet would you like? WowWee makes a series of plush pets that can hug you back when you hug them; and they react to petting and makes soothing sounds to express their feelings. These lovable pets include dogs, pandas, and lion cubs.
If you are into dinosaurs, WowWee's 32" long Roboraptor will fill the bill. It has three distinct moods—hunting, cautious and playful. There are multi-sensory touch sensors in its tail, chin and mouth, and it comes with powerful jaws that play tug-of war games.
One of the best, robotic toys is Paro, the seal, manufactured by AIST. This is actually a therapeutic robot used to ease people with dementia. Whenever a person takes care of a pet, they feel better, giving relief to sick people. It is proven that elderly people benefit from taking care of a pet. Paro is used in hospitals and extended care facilities. It has been found to reduce patient stress and has shown to have a psychological effect on patients, improving their relaxation and motivation. PARO improves the socialization of patients with each other and with caregivers. Paro is considered to be the world's most therapeutic robot certified by Guinness World Records.
Genibo, the robotic dog, was created by Dasarobot of Dasatech in South Korea. This pet dog can walk on its own like real live puppy; recognize your face; understand voice commands and it expresses its feelings when touched on the back, head, sides, etc. It has limited autonomy; going to sleep if left alone for five minutes. You can add functions, if you are the developer type.
Genibo can be much more than a real puppy. It scratches the ground, stands on its head, demonstrates Taekwon do and does exercises. The robot dog expresses itself using the eye emoticons, sound effects and 1200 emotional actions. It is also capable of expressing happiness, pleasure, surprise, boredom and drowsiness.
One of the most successful robotic pets is the Furby. The new Furbies have LCD eyes with many expressions. They can express their mood, dance to the sound of music, speak to you, and giggle when you touch their belly, or scream if you pull their tail. If several are put together, they will start chatting, sing together and dance. They can even communicate with your iPhone, using ultrasound.
Pleo is an animatronic pet dinosaur manufactured by Innvo Labs. The pet has the appearance and imagined behavior of a week-old baby Camarasaurus dinosaur. Each Pleo learns from its experiences and environment through artificial intelligence and develops an individual personality.
Pleo can recognize colors and patterns. It can also detect drop-offs, avoiding falling from a height. This Camarasaurus can hear, and will turn towards the source. Owners can name it and teach it verbal commands using learning stones. It can sense what kind of "food" or "medicine" owners are feeding; and then the dinosaur will choose to eat or not according to its simulated needs and wants. It can sense the temperature of its surroundings and react accordingly, as well as recognize the time to wake up, eat and sleep. It can even sense whether it is being petted or hit and react to touch.
There are nine kinds of food and medicine items made for Pleo rb in different health and life situations and seven new learning stones—these can teach Pleo rb how to bow, dance, sign, walk towards their owner, play games, etc. Pleo rb is designed to behave like a life-form, with four distinct life stages. When unboxed, it behaves like a newborn and needs to be "hatched" and brought up. With proper care, it will "grow up" into a juvenile after about two days. It starts to stand and walk smoothly during its teenage stage, and can then be taught to recognize its name. As owners continue to teach verbal commands, it will get to the mature stage and all features will be fully enabled.
Last year, us pet owners spent $58 Billion on our "children." As humans, we’re eager to bond with things. Kids who constantly engage with smart technology, extending that connection to a robot dog or dinosaur just might be the next obvious step. A robotic pet would allow the elderly and those with allergies to experience having a pet.
The negatives of having a live pet could drive more people to selecting a robotic pet. In the end, it will be a personal choice. Just because you have a robotic pet doesn't mean that you couldn't also have a live pet as well. Possessing both is always a prospect, and an owner's live pet could perhaps benefit from playing with the robotic pet as well.
Len Calderone - Contributing Editor
He also writes short stores that always have a surprise ending. These can be found at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Megalen.
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