I just got back from blowing $160 on food for the latest addition to the family, Katey, that was just for food.  She eats 3 cans of puppy food right now that cost $3 bucks or so each a day.  So my wife and I were talking about why robot pets haven’t caught on.

As you may know Microsoft has an open source O/S called Microframework and it works on a number of processors, so it would be great for use in simple robots with a few sensors.  But what is the difference between a robot pet and Katey?

At this time it is unlikely that my dog obsessed neighborhood would view a robot as a pet, carbon based is a requirement.  With Katey people stop their cars and get out to tell me tales about their dog that died a few months, years, or decades ago (really).  With a robot would that occur?  Nope.

So that is a con for robots: No emotional attachment, robots are programmable which means that the complexity level will constantly rise under the current culture

Con for dogs: Toilet training, feeding, some cultures do not like dogs

Pro for robot pets: No “surprises” on the carpet, no teeth marks on the furniture and your socks will not have tiny holes in them, robots are programmable

Pro for Dogs: They have been companions to humans for most of the existence of humanity, they have a “mind” of their own (what does that mean?), and they learn naturally, the complexity level stays the same

Price: Robots about $5,000 for one that could be like a pet if it is completely built out.  Dogs over their lifetime: $8,000 or so dollars for purchase (even shelter dogs have a cost), medical, including teeth cleaning, food about $50/month in the US

But now I am thinking, what about an Electronic Sheep for my herding dog to work on?  Now that might be a money maker, it wouldn’t have to be complex, and there could be contests.  Herding dogs need this kind of activity to reach their potential, and the owner of these kinds of dogs will pay a few thousand dollars for each electronic sheep and they would need 5 or 6 for the dog to do well.  Because of the nature of the herding, the dogs would likely damage the electronic sheep during training so there would be physical maintenance, software upgrades, leaderboards, etc.  As a result, there would be a economy required to maintain the interest.

And yes, I know that Bladerunner was based on the story by Philip K.Dick titled: “Do Androids dream of Electronic Sheep?”, the short story has aged much better than the movie by the way.  If you watch it today (it’s on Netflix), it has not aged well, although the rainy Los Angeles seems to map to the weather the past two weeks.