Japanese engineers, innovators, and inventors changed the way we view robots when they introduced to the world the concept of a robotic pet. Others may say that it was not the Japanese who thought of the first robotic pet. However, one can make the counter-argument that Japanese innovators were one of the first to develop a commercially viable robotic pet. A closer look at robotic pets available in the market today will make one realize that there is not much different between a robot and a pet, especially if viewed from the context of a robotic pet.
At first glance it seems as if there is a big difference between a robot and a pet, and that in all aspects there is nothing that one can find to find common things shared between the two. With regards to robots, these are man-made things created using wires, metal components, plastics, and computer hardware. In comparison to a lovely pet like a dog or a cat, these are organic living things. Live animals that are considered pets require tender loving care, especially when it comes to the food that they consume. Those who cannot afford to feed a dog or a cat or at least provide a decent shelter for these animals do not have the right to have pets. On the other hand, robots do not need nutritious and delicious food to survive.
A major difference between a robot and an animal pet is the life span and the time that a pet owner can spend to enjoy the company of a beloved animal. In the case of dogs, it is not practical to prolong their lives beyond the ten year mark. Cats may live longer but after several years, this type of pets is also going to pass away as well. There is a big difference when it comes to robots is that these objects can live longer depending on the technology and materials used to develop them.
A closer look at 21st century robotic pets may change the way people view the similarities between pets and robots. In the case of robotic pets, these man-made pets are able to express the same type of affection as live animals. Due to the availability of advanced robotics technology, robotics engineers have the capability to design robotic pets that can copy the reactions of real life pets whenever they see their masters or pet owners. At the same time, advances in computer technology enables developer to create pets that can interact with their owners. For example, robot pets require attention from their owners. The owners of the said robotic pets must perform certain actions in order for the robot pet to express satisfaction from receiving a certain level of care and affection from the pet owners. The HASBRO business empire, creators of the world famous G.I. Joe and Transformers film franchise added a new business to their growing organization, and this time the company created robotic cats and these are sold as robot pets. The best part about HASBRO’s robotic cats is that owners can enjoy their company without dealing with the high-maintenance requirements that comes with a real cat.
The similarities took an unexpected turn when Sony, one of the leaders in pet robotics decided to stop the manufacturing and customer support of their once popular product line called the AIBO. As a result, robots from Sony started “dying” or breaking down due to the absence of a reliable service center. A strange thing happened afterwards, because Japanese owners of the said robots went through a funeral service complete with Buddhist temple rites and incense for the dead.
When many of the owners were sad because they do not have the capability to sustain the life of the robot pets, a few Japanese engineers previously employed by Sony’s AIBO division came together to form an organization called FUNABASHI and this group is dedicated to help restore and repair robot pets. However, the engineers said that they do not use the words repair and maintenance because the owners wanted to treat their robot pets as if they are loved ones needing treatment.
There were plenty of differences and similarities between robots and pets. There are of course obvious differences because robots have mechanical parts while pets are made from organic living matter. There is also a big difference when it comes to taking care of robots compared to the maintenance requirements of a live animal. However, there are also similarities especially in the context of robotic pets. For example, in Japan, owners of robotic pets go through funeral services when robot pets are broken and cannot be repaired anymore. Others bring them to engineers that do not use words like repair and maintenance because the robot pets are viewed as patients. The similarity and difference were made clearer when HASBRO developed a robotic cat that owners can enjoy without the hassle linked to feeding and cleaning up the mess of real live animals.