Can Artificial Intelligence Reshape the Pet World?


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A bionic feline is making waves at CES 2020, a consumer technology show that takes place this week in Las Vegas. MarsCat, which is manufactured by a tech startup called Elephant Robotics, is supposed to exhibit real-life feline behaviors such as running, playing, kneading and purring. 

MarsCat isn’t the only robo-pet creating buzz. Aibo, a robot dog from Sony, is already commercially available. The two pets are poised to represent a new era in robotics as they’re much more advanced than Furbies or other robot animals designed for children. Built with sophisticated programming, both pets have facial recognition and are supposed to have their behaviors and personalities shaped by the way they interact with humans. Aibo is even able to learn tricks while MarsCat can interact with cat toys. 

Customers might be drawn to robotic pets for their ease of care. There’s no shedding that could irritate allergies or mess to clean up (though one of MarsCat’s behaviors simulates burying litter). Both manufacturers boast that these pets have real, affectionate personalities. They even come in different “fur” colors, though the chocolate Aibo is only sold in Japan. 

However, it’s doubtful that these robotic pets could become common household items anytime soon. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, MarsCat is not yet available for purchase. Aibo retails for a cool $2,899.99 in the U.S. While they may be adorable and can’t have accidents, they also have serious limitations, such as a short battery life of just a few hours before they need a recharge. And though they may have personality, any animal lover knows that petting a robot can’t replace cuddling with a real-life furry friend that loves you. 

 

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