Robot Cats Perfect For Older Britons

Robot cats and other man-made companions could help Britain's elderly, according to a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

"This is not constrained by the technological possibility of it so much as by the desire to do it -- and that is bound up with all sorts of social factors," said Professor Will Stewart of Southampton University, who contributed to the report.

As well as robotic pets, autonomous systems could be morphed into robot babysitters, artificial therapists and social or even sexual companions, the report said. With Britain's elderly population set to grow around 50 percent by 2020, robotic companions could also help monitor the health of Britain's increasingly grey population.

"It is not a complete replacement for your kid calling you once a week. What you want is continuous attention and that is very difficult," said Stewart.

A robotic pet could help raise the alarm in the case of an accident, monitor fridge contents to make sure the elderly do not go hungry while voice prompts could remind them to switch off the heating.

Maybe older Brits could start with the Dream Cat Venus, an autonomous robotic feline that will be available for about $110 in Japan.


(Dream Cat Venus)

The report does not mention the stiff upper lip required of those who repair electric pets; witness this scene from Philip K. Dick's Do androids dream of electric sheep?.

...he had picked up the first malfunctioning animal for the day. An electric cat: it lay in the plastic dust-proof carrying cage in the rear of the truck and panted erratically. You'd almost think it was real, Isadore observed as he headed back to the Van Ness Pet Hospital - that carefully misnamed little enterprise which barely existed in the tough, competitive field of false-animal repair...

The electric mechanism, within its compellingly authentic-style gray pelt, gurgled and blew bubbles, its vidlenses glassy, its metal jaws locked together.

I'm also interested in how the right device could extend the companionship offered by an organic pet. Consider Huggable, a robotic teddy bear developed by MIT that seems to fit the bill specified by the Royal Academy of Engineering.


(Huggable Robotic Bear Companion for Therapeutic Applications)

Via Reuters.

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