As a dog owner, I know firsthand how wonderful it is to have a furry friend (or two) in your life. Dogs and cats have been living with and alongside humans for centuries — but sometimes, due to living space constraints or mobility issues, keeping a live pet is not an option. And, in finding tech workarounds, sometimes you end up with something really… weird.
Take Qoobo, a fuzzy “therapy robot” created by Yukai Engineering in Japan, and set to hit the market in 2018. Billed as “a tailed cushion that heals your heart,” it’s basically a tubby disc with a cat-like tail appendage that swipes back and forth when sensors detect a human petting it. Or, as Jezebel puts it, “an animatronic coonskin cap.”. Check out a video of it in action here.
Compared to other therapy robot animals on the market, like Hasbro’s Joy for All companion pets (a line of three, startlingly accurate cat robots), Qoobo is very minimalist. And for anyone who has a living animal in their life, it the whole thing is a bit strange and soulless.
However, for people without the space to keep or the resources to feed and clean up after a living animal, a robo-kitty could be a mental health godsend. The benefits of animal company to humans are well documented. There are many programs that bring living pups into senior care centres, among other places. And, when a person living with dementia needs a soothing animal friend at 3 a.m., having a robot in the facility is more convenient — and helps just as well — as the real thing.
While there is a time and place for robot pets, I’ll have to leave them for the time being to folks better suited to the lifestyle. I definitely have my hands full with my living fur balls!