We live in a world of advanced medicine and technology. As a result, people are living longer. This can be viewed as a blessing or a curse, depending on who you ask. But along with medical progress that sees people living decades longer, innovations may help seniors cope with loneliness.
Toy manufacturer Hasbro has expanded its scope and demographic by creating a pair of lifelike virtual pets intended to keep senior citizens company. It launched robotic cats as part of its “Joy for All” line of toys last year. Now, the company offers a new robotic pal, a responsive golden retriever puppy.
The companion pets are designed to respond much like real pets to vocal cues and physical contact. Petting the pup’s cheek entices it to nuzzle your hand. Stroking its back elicits a subtle heartbeat. The pup barks when spoken to and falls asleep when left alone for a few minutes.
There are some significant advantages to virtual pets. They won’t have accidents, never need to be fed, cannot run away, and will not attack house guests. Of course, they may lack the full scale of affection that comes with an actual pet but the tradeoff is surely worth it to some degree. Of course, once again depending on who you ask. I like the affection I receive when I look at a real dog. I wonder if they could recreate that with a robotic one.
Caregiving robots have proven to be affective companions for elderly people. In the Netherlands, an emotionally intelligent robot named Alice was introduced to the homes of a few senior citizens during a trial. The mostly homebound seniors responded well to Alice’s interactions, despite some initial skepticism. Though that sounds kind of creepy to me. Have these people seen I, Robot?
At $120, the robotic pup is not cheap but it is far less expensive than its living, breathing counterparts. Apparently, the robotic golden retriever can now be purchased at Walmart and Amazon. We might even see others buying the robotic version as well. It could do well for kids whose parents might not want a dog. Or for people who love dogs, but are allergic. I’m seeing multiple possibilities here.
Maybe this will be a more advanced and much less scary version of the Furby. Anyone remember those? We had to take the batteries out of mine because it kept talking at night. That was an advantage that the Tamigochi had over the Furby.
Picture taken from: http://knowyourmeme.com/
Even though I am adopting a new puppy this week, I can get behind a robotic dogs. I absolutely love dogs. But Alice seems a bit much to me. I’m not ready for a humanoid companion yet. Sounds too creepy. But, hey, I may change my mind when I’m older.
So, what do you think about the whole robotic golden retriever thing? Will you be getting one? What about Alice? Do you think she’s a good thing or do you think she’s too creepy? Tell us in the comments below.