This may not sit well with pet-lovers. A plastic dog is hardly as cuddly as a Pomeranian. But Rault argues the robot variety has a lot going for it: “You don’t have to feed it; you don’t have to walk it; it won’t make a mess in your house; and you can go on holidays without feeling guilty.” Plus mechanical animals could open up pet ownership to people with allergies, mobility issues, or tiny apartments.
The biggest selling point might be that robot pets combine the utility of a machine with the companionship of an animal. Dan Goldman, who works with biomechanical robots at the Georgia Institute of Technology, spitballs what one might look like: “It’ll be a dog that can read your emotions and respond. It’ll be a snake that can slither under your bed to find toys.” One day we might even be able to transfer a robot pet’s memory to an upgraded model to make it a lifelong companion.