AI (artificial intelligence) is THE hot topic right now. Recent television programmes have looked at robotic counsellors for couples in crisis as well as robotic girlfriends. Fans of Doctor Who will remember one of the show’s most loved characters, robot dog K9. The “mechanical mutt” has made several long-standing appearances throughout the show’s long history.
Now the animal kingdom could be ‘under threat’: robot dogs are widely available to buy – both for children and adults. They don’t need to be walked or fed nor do you need to scoop the poop or tidy up after them. As we become increasingly divorced from what is real and what is created could real life dogs been abandoned as too much trouble? Could they ever wholly replace the full-blooded hounds that have been man’s (and woman’s) best friend for millennia?
A scientific study in 2008 found that interactive robotic dogs reduced feelings of loneliness among the elderly residents in a long-term care facility. Those who took part showed high levels of attachment to both a living and robotic canine. Some of the people in nursing homes reported that they “preferred robotic pets because they would not have to worry about them if they had to be admitted to the hospital or that they couldn’t take care of a living pet,” said Dr William Banks, a professor at the University of Washington who was a co-author of the study.
Hasbro has introduced a plush robotic Labrador pup aimed at seniors. The ‘companion pet’ retails at $119.99 (around £90). After a decade’s absence Sony’s robot canine, Aibo, is set to go on sale again, featuring artificial intelligence upgrades backed by cloud computing to develop the dog’s personality. Boston Dynamics “new and improved” SpotMini is to be relaunched, which they believe one day will assist people in their homes and offices.
However, ethical considerations have arisen surrounding cruelty. Demonstration films have shown people punching, pushing and kicking robots to prove how strong and stable the latter are. Could this fuel bullying, creating a Clockwork Orange-type world of rage and extreme violence?
As a friend of Dog Hair Day remarked: “the dog is a sentient being, unique and beautiful in its own right.”
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