The 10 Best Robot Dogs
How Robots Work
Despite the obvious differences, robots and humans actually have similar components. In the most basic sense, humans have five major elements: a body, a muscle system to move the body, a sensory system for receiving information, a power source which activate the systems, and a brain to process information and send commands to the body parts.
Looking at how robots are built, we can see a similar system in action. Every kind of smart robot needs a minimum of five of these basic components to function. Whatever the shape may be, robots have some form of a body or structure. They also have motors to power the body's movement, which can be equated to the muscles of a human.
Smart robots also feature some kind of sensory system responsible for gathering data. This is often a combination of sensors and cameras. There needs to be a power source of some kind as well. In robots this is often a battery, whereas in humans it can be considered the heart. And finally there is a brain, or in the case of robots a microchip processor to control all of the components.
When all of these components are incorporated into a robotic dog, we wind up with a futuristic four-legged companion that can learn from us, react to its surroundings, and even develop some form of personality. Most robotic dogs have sensors that allow them to react to a person's hand gestures and voice commands. Depending on the model, you may be able to tell the robotic dog to sit and it will perform the command just like a real dog. Others may perform tricks like back flips and rolling over at the wave of its owners hand. Some of the models designed for children are a little more playful and will dance if their human counterpart starts dancing or start barking if the child begins to sing.
Many robotic dogs also have sensors that allow them to respond to touch. Their tail may start wagging or their eyes may open up wider when being pet. Just like a real dog, most robotic dogs use their eyes and body language to communicate their mood. If sad, they may move a little slower and slump down. When tired their eyes will often be half closed. The models that have integrated microphones respond to being called and will come running, or rolling, up when their name is called or their owner walks into the home.
Robotic Pets And The Elderly
A number of universities have been conducting studies into how humans and robots interact with each other. There is a growing base of evidence that supports robotic pets being better companions for the elderly than live pets. Caring for a live pet can be extremely difficult for an elderly person, yet many still need the companionship that a pet can offer. It has been known for decades that elderly people with pets live longer, and it seems robotic pets may offer many of these benefits.
An example can be seen from a recent experiment at an elderly care home in Brisbane, Australia. Thomas, an 82 year old man who suffered from dementia, made notable improvements after interacting with a robotic seal named PARO. He spent time holding and cuddling with the robotic canine as it nuzzled his chin. When his session was over, Thomas spoke for the first time in years, saying "Goodbye, PARO."
He is not the only elderly person to respond well to a robotic pet. PARO is now being used in many old folks homes around the world as is considered a medical care device. It has been observed that many elderly people are more engaged with PARO than dogs and other animals brought into the care facilities.
Another study by Saint Louis University found that there was almost no difference in how elderly people responded to a robotic dog named AIBO as they did to a live dog. After two months comparing people who spent time playing with AIBO and those who played with a live dog, the study concluded that the attachments formed with AIBO were just as strong as those formed with the live dog.
Will Robotic Pet Replace Real Pets?
As the world becomes more overpopulated and space in many cities around the world is becoming an issue, some scientists believe that owning a real pet may become a luxury that few can afford. Increasing urbanization is causing many people to live in small homes and apartments that would be unsuitable for a four-legged family member.
Examples of this can be seen in cities like Tokyo, where the average apartment is about 600 sq. ft., or Hong Kong, where they are now selling apartments between 150 and 250 sq. ft for over $500,000.
We have already seen how attached people can become to robotic pets. In the mid-1990s, there was the Tamagotchi craze in Japan. The Tamagotchi was a small egg-shaped, handheld digital pet. Caring for the pet consisted of feeding it, cleaning up after digital poops, turning off the light when it slept, and more. If they weren't cared for properly they would die. They would also eventually die of old age. When much-loved Tamagotchis died, some people went as far as to hold actual funerals for them.
Looking at this, robotic pets as the norm of the future doesn't seem so far fetched and could be a real possibility as caring for a live pet becomes too difficult because of space and social responsibilities.