Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Future Cities will Probably Have More Robot Dogs than Real Dogs

Pets make an important part of human life. Domestication on earth started about 20,000–32,000 years ago with dogs, and today, the word "pet" covers species ranging from birds and mammals to fish, some "exotic" reptiles and even insects. In Western society, a major portion of people keep a pet to serve either as a status symbol or to compensate for lack of social relationships.

Image by mckdnk [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

At present, about 30% households in the US own a cat and about 37% have a dog. An overlap between the two means nearly 50% of households in the US own at least one pet. Pets ownership is also popular in Europe, and is on the rise in Asian countries as well.

Despite this ancient human-animal companionship, the technological advancement in the past two decades and fast pace of urbanization has posed a big question ahead of researchers – how will technology and urbanization impact human–animal relationships in future.

Jean-Loup Rault, an Australian researcher, recently published his study in journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, where he discusses the future interaction of humans with robotic, real and virtual pets. Based on the observations and findings of his study, Rault suggests that in super-dense cities of the future, robotic pets will probably replace the real pets because it will be difficult for future cities to provide enough living space for 9.5 billion people and their pets.

"It is difficult to imagine how more than half of the 9.6 billion people of 2050 could still keep pets." Rault wrote in his paper in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

A number of studies in the past have revealed that many people do like interacting with their robotic pets. There are many instances where people, especially children, were found to be interacting with their virtual pets in the same way as most people interact with their live pets. When Sony closed its last repair center for Aibo robotic pets in Japan, many Aibo owners were seen holding funerals for their robotic pets after those robotic pets broke down and were unable to serve their masters further.

Rault believes that despite on-going efforts to develop green and pet-friendly cities, pets in future will be "a luxury possession for people who can afford to sustain their cost and fulfill their needs in terms of space, social, and mental needs."

So are pets a thing of the past? "Let the future tell the truth" suggests Rault quoting futuristic scientist Nikola Tesla.

Author: Devender Kundaliya