[Feature Story] Robotic Pets- Companion in Our Life

by Han-Ru Xie

With the fast development of the society, the burden of life on our shoulder has become heavier. Not getting married and having no childbearing have become a trend, and many people turn to keeping pets to meet their needs for companion and connection. However, pets still go to the toilet, make noises, and they require companion. Because of this, robotic pets were born. The following are 2 different types for your reference.

Aibo- Electronic Dog with Emotions

Sony launched its first-generation electronic dog- Aibo as early as in 1999. However, it was no-frills and showed rigid movements, falling into the stereotype that people have for robots. With the continuous renovation over the years, Aibo today comes with improved performances where there are 22 motion axes, allowing it to walk, sit, lie down, and even play dead, just like real dogs! Its nose is equipped with a camera for facial recognition, coupled with eyes made of OLED screens through which the dog can express their emotions.

Expressing emotions with their eyes is one of Aibo’s features

Most importantly, Aibo can record the owner’s behaviors and analyze them using AI to make responses. In other words, as the owner spends more time with Aibo, Aibo will gradually develop its own character, unlike the old models that could just perform a predetermined sequence of operations.

Aibo, having “emotions” of its own, has become a hit in Japan. Not only does it sell well, Aibo even wiped the barriers between humans and machinery, becoming an indispensable member of many households.

PARO- World’s Most Soothing Seal

Developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan, PARO is a robotic seal that features a soft sense for touching and a round and snow-white cute appearance. PARO serves as a companion to the elderly with cognition disorders in nursing homes, providing a calming effect and emotional responses.

PARO is equipped with five sensors for touching, sound, light, temperature, and responses, allowing PARO to respond to people and the environment around it. For instance, PARO is more energetic during the day and sleepy at night, as the natural light changes throughout a day. In addition, PARO is capable of learning. When users touch PARO under certain conditions, it will keep record of the action or pattern that it has received and perform certain responses accordingly.

PARO has been medically proven to be therapeutic for patients with bipolar disorder and dementia, serving more like an assistive or companion dog. On the other hand, there is no risk of it biting people and it does not cost any time and money for training and caring.

PARO widely used in medical care

Conclusion

It can be seen from the above-mentioned designs that pet robots can become an alternative for people who do not have the conditions suitable for keeping pets yet they seek something to place their feelings. Also, there have been significant effects in caring and medical treatment. In a society where the aging population is growing, the world is looking forward to a design like this and its future development.

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