Putting therapy robots to the cool or not test, robot pets have to be effective to get respect, so here’s one analysis of a robotic cat.
It’s clearly a toy, even if it’s hard to pinpoint why exactly. The weight is nice, it feels solid to hold. But the fur is coarse and the shape is very rigid, so no cuddle points there. The cat turns on via a small switch concealed in its belly, and you can set it to “on” or “mute”, the difference being that it will move around in mute, but won’t purr or yelp. The cat has a number of sensors installed that respond to different actions. Rub it behind its ears and it starts purring, a low comforting growl that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. It also meows for attention. Stroking it in different places can cause it to lift its paw and roll over. But this also causes a weird clicking mechanical noise which is very disconcerting. But after all, it’s a $99 robot covered in faux fur.
After working with the cat for two weeks it was named, Cat, original huh? At first Cat stayed on the couch or by the table, peering with black unblinking eyes. Then working with him on a knee didn’t work as clicking and yipping was too distracting. but sitting with him turned off it felt ridiculous! But as time passed one becomes oddly comforted by Cat even stroking Cat while in pajamas binge-watching House of Cards. It could be a hop, skip and a jump to becoming that crazy person who stayed at home playing with a robotic pussycat.
By using Cat and seeing how it can make someone feel comforted helps you to realize this could be of real benefit to people. Sure, it’s super fake, but that doesn’t mean it might make you feel a little bit better.