are becoming more and more common and more present in households. These artificially intelligent machines made to ressemble common pets such as cats and dogs now mimic pets more naturally and are less work to take care of than actual pets. Over the years we have heard customers name their robot vacuum like it is a member of their family and urge us to repair them as fast as possible to get their brother or sister back in a timely fashion. They also much prefer repairs than exchanges since they prefer keeping their family member "Alive" than replacing it (or him/her). Now with robots that look and feel like pets, this phenomenon is becoming even more common and these machines or robots are becoming an actual family member or friend much like pets.
Researchers mention that the reasons for the possible shift from real pets to robotic versions is likely to be caused by the increasing urbanization of the planet. With rapid growth of pets in Asia, where having a domestic animal is seen as an example of one’s social status, it may not be viable for one to adopt a pet. More realistically, pets will become a luxury possession for people who can afford to sustain their cost and fulfill their needs in terms of space, social, and mental needs according to possibly higher ethical standards raised by future societies. Said Dr. Jean-Loup Rault, from the University of Melbourne’s Animal Welfare Science Centre.
“We are possibly witnessing the dawn of a new era, the digital revolution with likely effects on pet ownership, similar to the industrial revolution which replaced animal power for petrol and electrical engines,” the animal welfare researcher wrote.
are likely to be replacing man's best friend in homes around the world in as little as a decade and people are expected to form genuine emotional attachments to their virtual and mechanical animal companions.
Genibo Robot Dog
It might sound surreal for some people to have attachments to non living things but, it is becoming totally normal. Researches confirm that robot pets without a doubt, can trigger human emotions. The proof is that robotic pets are also used is hospitals to keep elderly people alert and active with the company they provide. Even if animals appear to provide more love and cuddles back than robotic pets, studies have shown that robots can fill an almost identical emotional niche. An example of robots used in hospitals is the PARO robot seal:
Children treat robotic dogs such as the AIBO, as if it was a living dog, and this does not vary based on if the child already owns a real pet or is interested in robotics. Robotic pets appear to obtain similar responses from humans as living pets, but it is unclear for scientists whether they stimulate identical responses and replace the need for a pet. There are still debates on the function and benefits humans derive from live pets.
Not to mention that the change to robotic pets also comes from the fact that animals must be cared and provided for. Robotic pets don't need water, food, exercise etc. But, will this change the way we care for real pets? Being used to "playing" with robotic pets at our convenience and not when our actual care is needed. Robotic pets may also include things not normally considered pets, like Pleo
, a robotic dinosaur:
PLEO rb Autonomous Robot Life Form
Are robotic pets a better fit for families where having a pet does not make sense because of living in an apartment in the city or lack of time? Or will it become a necessity because of overpopulation? Our shared history with domestic animals goes back tens of thousands years. However, technological advances in the last decades – computer, internet, social media – revolutionized our means of communication, and particularly our social lives. The question is whether these new technologies actually represent the future of pet ownership, helping tackle its sustainability while solving animal welfare issues. Pets may be used to compensate for lack of social relationships, as pet owners report feeling less lonely, although there are evidence that pets facilitate human social interactions. Dr Rault warns that the emergence of robotic pets is a double-edged sword. They can benefit people who are allergic to pets, short on space, in the hospital, or scared of real animals, but the ethics of depending on a robot for companionship begs many big ethical questions.
"If artificial pets can replicate the human benefits obtained from live pets, does that mean that the human–animal emotional bond is solely dependent on ourselves and the image that we project on a live or artificial interactive partner? Does it ethically matter if the benefits of keeping artificial pets outweight the risks, sparing other live pets’ potential animal welfare issues?" Said Dr. Jean-Loup Rault.
The development and advancement of robotic pets could also have unforeseen dangers. Bill Gates has warned that artificial intelligence poses a real threat to mankind, while Professor Stephen Hawking adds that due to the slow evolution of humans, they may not be able to compete and would be superseded by artificial intelligence.
See our blog post Is Advanced AI + Robot Army = End of Human Race?
for more information on artificial intelligence.
MIT anthropologist Sherry Turkle, one of the leading researchers in the field, is conducting studies on how children perceive smart toys like the Aibo, Furby, Tamagotchi and My Real Baby. She says humans are programmed to respond in a caring way to creatures, even brand-new artificial ones.
When engineers work on robotic pets, they work on social intelligence, they address what people need from their dogs and other pets: companionship, love, obedience, dependence. They do everything possible to make them look and feel like animals. Since a widespread theory holds that pet ownership brings health benefits, Will Robot Pets Replace Real Pets In The Future? What are your thought on this?