Are robotic pets the future?

In a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about research into the development of robotics to help support the independent living of older people I speculated on what might be the potential implications of this development for our traditional companion pets.

And now animal welfare researcher, Dr Jean-Loup Rault from the University of Melbourne, has just published a paper in which he envisions in a short space of time traditional pets may indeed give way to Robopets.

Dr Rault argues that as digital technology has revolutionised human communication and social relationships, it could now have a similar impact on human-animal relationships. The issue of whether digital technology i.e. robots could replace pets has not been generally explored according to Dr Rault, with research remaining in its infancy; and he considers that at present artificial pets can be seen as mediocre substitutes for real animals, but with the rapid development of technology we should question our relationships with real animals and consider whether artificial pets can fulfil their role in our lives. He poses the insightful questions of whether animals are what make us humans, or alternatively was the domestication of animals about selecting animals to be perfect pets, a role perhaps Robopet could take on?

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