How far off is the technology for robotic service pets to replace their breathing counterparts? The future is closer than you think. The most likely way for that to happen with technology is through machine learning.
In the past, people have built AI systems by programming machines to respond to different events in a series of pre-programmed ways – essentially following scripts. With sufficiently complex scripts, the machines may exhibit behaviors that appear to be intelligent.
Over the past several years, there’s been a lot of research into building machines that can learn. With these machines, every new skill doesn’t require a programmer to write a new code. Now, they just have to be shown. Some very recent research gives us machines that can effectively learn from experience, given only rewards and penalties, just like a ‘real’ service pet.
For a robot to replace a service animal, it needs to be able to do 3 things – perceive the environment (mostly visually), communicate with the user, and make plans to achieve what the user wants to do (cross the road, get on a train, etc).
Computer vision (computers that can interpret visual stimuli) is a very hot research area right now, and machine learning has enabled us to make some large leaps. We now have computers that can read handwriting almost as well as humans, accurately identify different types of birds or plants, and cars that can keep themselves on the road and avoid pedestrians.
At Universe Optics, we specialize in the design and manufacture of precision lenses. The ability of the robotic service pet to ‘see’ and send the message back to the computer largely depends on the clarity of the lens included in the design and manufacturing. You can be assured that a lens to meet the specifications necessary for a service pet will be met with our team of expert engineers coupled with our manufacturing facilities.
Robotic service pets may be the answer for people that are facing possible dementia, and other difficulties related to cognitive impairment.
Point of fact, in 2015, an independent film called Robot & Frank came out. It centered around an older man in the not-so-distant future who was facing increased signs of dementia. His adult son buys him a robot to care for him at home. Of course, at first, Frank wasn’t very happy with the idea of having a robot, but winds up developing a friendship with it. Not unlike what happens in Castaway, when Tom Hanks bonds with Wilson, the volleyball.
The not-so-distant future is here when it comes to pets. A major toy manufacturer has introduced two ‘companion pets’. A cat and a dog. Both are robotic, furry interactive creatures. The robotic cat is equipped with a soft fur that gently vibrates when it purrs, while the pup barks and cocks its head in your direction when you speak. They are designed to bring happiness and comfort to older adults who may be feeling lonely or isolated. There’s no need to feed, walk or clean up after the robot and it doesn’t come with the risk of biting, or doesn’t display any unpredictable behavior.
According to Jean-Loup Rault, professor at the Univeristy of Melbourne in Australia, “It might sound surreal for us to have robotic service pets, but it could be totally normal for the next generation”.