Don’t try to replace pets with robots – instead, design robots to look more like service animals

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Robots-robots are artificially intelligent machines created to look like an animal (usually a cat or a dog, but it can be any animal). There are currently many faucets on the market, sold to consumers as “pets” or as companions. A particularly fervent effort is made to reassure caregivers by purchasing these faucets for the elderly to replace their deceased or abandoned pets.

Animal lovers will tell you that they would rather have nothing than to have a pet robot. While a tap can be programmed to simulate the actions of a real animal, people know it’s a fake.

There should be a backbone of the companion-based marketing strategy for faucets – which has deep ethical issues associated with replacing emotional bonds between living things – to meet the needs currently being met by service animals.

In my research on the effects of the human-animal bond on human health, participants emphasize the reciprocal nature of their relationship with companion animals. The human fills the animal with love, delicious food, hugs, scratches and caresses, and the animal, in turn, responds with unconditional love. The vast majority also say that the non-human animals in their lives are family members, integral to their happiness and well-being.

It is patronizing to introduce a robot to an adult and suggest that it will take the place of a loved one, whether human or not.

Tombot robot dogs are marketed as helping older people with dementia.

New markets

However, there is a huge and still untapped market for faucets and other social robots to act as service robots. Let’s call them Serv-U-Bots. These staff service robots are different from those developed to replace humans in some manufacturing and service sectors.

Serv-U-Bots would look a lot like a pet robot – small, portable, and intended for personal use – and use a lot of technologies already built into social robots. These on-board sensors could include cameras for observation, microphones for audio recording, temperature sensors, communication technologies and even autonomous movement, moving on the basis of programming rather than input. human.



Read more: Robopets: Use of technology to monitor older people raises privacy concerns


Serv-U-Bots are said to be programmed to replace service animals, which are currently raised and trained to promote human mobility and independence. However, this is an expensive endeavor.

Many organizations that provide service animals have breeding programs, training facilities, and huge budgets that are subsidized by donors or are billed back to governments, insurers, or families. Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind graduate approximately 23 dogs per year from their training program, at an average operating cost of over $ 74,300 per dog.

These dogs are not considered pets by the organizations that raise and train them. They are assistance dogs, trained to provide assistance. If their current placement ends due to the death of the person they were helping or for other reasons, they are usually referred to the organization for another placement.

Robots as service animals

But what about replacing service dogs with Serv-U-Bots: social robots programmed to perform service-related functions? We have the technological know-how to create Serv-U-Bots that can increase independence through programming that can provide an alert if the toast is burning, the kettle is boiling, the doorbell rings, etc. They might even take on the duties of medical alert dogs that can detecting medical problems such as a seizure or low blood sugar, or alerting the user to the presence of allergens.

Service robots can help people take care of their pets.
(Shutterstock)

Serv-U-Bots could even help the elderly continue to enjoy the company of animals by feeding them, checking they have water, and even cleaning the litter box.

If a the automobile can be programmed to drive itself, avoiding obstacles and life forms, why not program a Serv-U-Bot to guide people around town? They could also be programmed to facilitate real interactions with living things. This technology can save and enrich lives and help people be mobile.

Serv-U-Bots would be able to meet the independence and mobility needs of humans without exploiting non-human animals.

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