No litter, no dander, less emotional indifference
November 18, 2015 11:04 AM   Subscribe

With realistic fur, purrs and meows - and sensors that respond to petting and hugs with familiar, cat-like actions - Companion Pets deliver a soothing, joyful experience that inspires smiles, laughter and fond memories for people of all ages. Hasbro is now offering lifelike robotic cats to provide companionship for seniors.
posted by gottabefunky (100 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd be interested except now I want the seal from Master of None more.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:07 AM on November 18, 2015 [18 favorites]


This is not a terrible idea, but damn do those 'cats' look fake.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:12 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really can't wait for the Amazon reviews to start rolling in...(at this point there aren't any...)
posted by HuronBob at 11:12 AM on November 18, 2015


Do they also climb on top of the fridge and pounce on you with claws, or stare endlessly at a random spot on the wall for no apparent reason? If not, I'm going to have to wait a bit for additional R&D.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:13 AM on November 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd be interested except now I want the seal from Master of None more.

Paro
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


"....Pet Cat, is now available and comes packed with motion and light sensors so that it can realistically respond to being petted, held, and hugged......"

I'm assuming this means it will suddenly, for no reason, leap out of your arms, lacerating your skin and nearly taking an eye out....
posted by HuronBob at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


Vomit is extra.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on November 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


lifelike is not exactly the world I would use.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:15 AM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


This does in fact look to me like a terrible idea. Those stiff almost-cats, the simulacrum of affection, the robotic movements...

All this is what I would have said before, a number of years ago, I was given the chance to play with a Paro therapeutic robot. It comes from Japan, a baby fir seal that mechanically comes to life in your arms. In spite of my better judgment, I was instantly on board: it just felt so comforting and soft, and even though I knew it was a robot I somehow didn't care.

Robots, it turns out, are pretty cool.

Though I'm still sad about that final shot of the old gent in his beautiful office, token of a lifetime's respect and achievement, absorbed in cuddling a glorified child's toy.
posted by Dreadnought at 11:19 AM on November 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


I hope to God I'm never in a living situation so crappy as to make having a fake kitty robot the only joy of my miserable existence.
posted by Soliloquy at 11:23 AM on November 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


NO TUXEDO COLOR OPTION?! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by usonian at 11:26 AM on November 18, 2015 [26 favorites]


I looked at all of the videos on the web site. Be careful, the ending of the third video is really sad. A bit more real than Hasbro probably intended.

The idea behind these is all right, I guess. It provides a simulacra of companionship for seniors who can no longer care for their own pets, or who live in places that don't allow real animals. But for any senior with normal mental faculties this is going to be a temporary interest at best. Like any adult, they'll eventually tire of the artificiality of it and put the cat on a shelf somewhere, maybe to be pulled out when grandchildren visit.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:28 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Companion Pets deliver a soothing, joyful experience that inspires smiles, laughter and fond memories for people of all ages.

Or they could get a cat.

(God I hope I'm never receptive to synthetic comforting)
posted by Artful Codger at 11:28 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hope that, should I live to be old rather than dying of a treatable illness in a ditch somewhere, the robot cats available to me will be plausible enough that I can lie to myself about them effectively. I would really like to go home and hang out with my actual cat now, though. This has a been a pretty shit week so far and all this stuff about cats is doing is making me lonely.
posted by Frowner at 11:31 AM on November 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Do they also ... stare endlessly at a random spot on the wall for no apparent reason

This is something non-robotic toy cats excel at.
posted by aubilenon at 11:32 AM on November 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


All watched over by machines of loving grace, indeed.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:33 AM on November 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


While my first response to seeing the thing was "Ugh, kill it with fire," I suppose there are some therapeutic circumstances it could be helpful. But for me it's go real or go home.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:34 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've got a friend who, at the age of 94, decided to move into a retirement home. They wouldn't let her bring her cat (another home was found). I wouldn't be surprised if that were standard practice with most retirement homes (as infuriating as it is), so I can see where there's a market for something like this.

But goddammit, don't piss in my cornflakes and call it breakfast.
posted by adamrice at 11:36 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think this is an awesome thing and I was wishing for just this recently, on behalf of my elderly, limited-mobility but not-senile mother who dearly loves cats but just cannot keep up with the responsibilities of owning one. I don't find this pathetic at all, rather a pragmatic solution to a common problem, but I am a grown woman who enjoys stuffed animals so I guess I'm already not up to MeFi standards of Proper Adulthood.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:36 AM on November 18, 2015 [28 favorites]


Between an automatic feeder and self-cleaning litterbox, you could get owning a cat down to about once-a-week maintenance.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:42 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Once a week maintenance someone still has to do. Nursing homes don't allow animals most of the time, which sucks.
posted by agregoli at 11:43 AM on November 18, 2015


I want one but only so I can take a torch to its fur and freak people the fuck out with my hideous half-melted cat.
posted by item at 11:44 AM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


The idea of companion robots always kind of creeps me out. I mean, I guess if it makes someone happier, then a companion robot is better than the absence of a companion robot—but the fact that we even have to resort to fooling senile folks with Furbies (instead of, say, actual human/animal affection) is a pretty sad commentary on Western culture.

Then again, I'm developing an emotional connection to Dogmeat in Fallout 4. He is a good puppy! When he gets hurt and whimpers, I make sure to shoot the responsible party in the face extra hard.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:44 AM on November 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


Those stiff almost-cats, the simulacrum of affection, the robotic movements...

Yeah, they're definitely in the uncatty valley.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:45 AM on November 18, 2015 [30 favorites]


My wife and I keep a list of behaviors that, should I ever exhibit any of them, she is to take me out in the backyard and shoot me. These behaviors are so pathetic and egregious we are convinced no jury would convict her. Rather, they would rule it a mercy killing and award her a medal. This damn cat-bot is definitely going on the list...
posted by jim in austin at 11:50 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel as sad about these cats as I do the robotic parakeets. I can't tell why.
posted by Spatch at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2015


Vomit is extra.

Cat's don't typically vomit. They regurgitate.

I comfort myself by thinking that after the cat feasts on my weeks dead corpse she won't puke.

Who am I kidding? Hours dead corpse.
posted by srboisvert at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Between an automatic feeder and self-cleaning litterbox, you could get owning a cat down to about once-a-week maintenance.

Hello Jon Snow!
posted by srboisvert at 11:59 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why, if it turns out to be half the success of its big brother, the AIBO, then Hasbro will be poised to forever rule the Uncanny Valley Of Pets.
posted by Mayor West at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


These are lovely in a sad way.

If my dad were still alive and living with Alzheimer's, I might have gotten one for him. He LOVED our family kitties throughout his life. And we gave him a floppy, stuff-animal kitty when he was living in the care facility: we would put it on his lap and he would stroke it repeatedly and smile. Just like had had done with our family's series of much-loved kitties in the years before. So while I felt sad that he came to be in such a state that petting a fake cat was not perceived by him to be a strange thing to do as a grown man, I was happy that we could do anything at all to bring him some comfort and pleasure in the actual state in which he (and we) lived.

So yay for cats, real and fake. Both can bring pleasure and provide solace.
posted by Halo in reverse at 12:03 PM on November 18, 2015 [52 favorites]


I see the appeal, but then I can't afford a cat.
posted by Lorin at 12:04 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


These wouldn't be nearly as creepy and unheimlich if they didn't try to replicate an animal as familiar as a cat. Why not a robot iguana you could pet? Or a tiny woolly mammoth? Or a tribble?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:10 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


This reminds me, the movie Harry And Tonto, which features both a real cat and aged Art Carney, is on NetFlix.
posted by JHarris at 12:11 PM on November 18, 2015


I'm allergic to cats, and I like cats, so I sort of want one.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:16 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


As someone whose cat has just for no apparent reason begun peeing in the house, I find that I wish he was a robot.
posted by deadbilly at 12:21 PM on November 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Stephen King is writing a novel right now using these guys. Think "Pet Semetary" mated with "Salem's Lot". The working title is "Uncanny Valley". I shit you not.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:41 PM on November 18, 2015


I would pay CASH MONEY for a pet woolly mammoth robot. FOLDING money.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:42 PM on November 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


What, no Philip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep references?
To the cat, Isidore said, "Can you hang on until we reach the shop?" The cat continued to wheeze. "I'll recharge you while we're en route," Isidore decided; he dropped the truck toward the nearest available roof and there, temporarily parked with the motor running, crawled into the back of the truck and opened the plastic dust-proof carrying cage, which, in conjunction with his own white suit and the name on the truck, created a total impression of a true animal vet picking up a true animal.


The electric mechanism, within its compellingly authentic style gray pelt, gurgled and blew bubbles, its vid-lenses glassy, its metal jaws locked together. This had always amazed him, these "disease" circuits built into false animals; the construct which he now held on his lap had been put together in such a fashion that when a primary component misfired, the whole thing appeared - not broken - but organically ill. It would have fooled me, Isidore said to himself as he groped within the ersatz stomach fur for the concealed control panel (quite small on this variety of false animal) plus the quick-charge battery terminals, He could find neither. Nor could he search very long; the mechanism had almost failed. If it does consist of a short, he reflected, which is busy burning out circuits, then maybe I should try to detach one of the battery cables; the mechanism will shut down, but no more harm will be done. And then, in the shop, Milt can charge it back up.


Deftly, he ran his fingers along the pseudo bony spine. The cables should be about here. Damn expert workmanship; so absolutely perfect an imitation. Cables not apparent even under close scrutiny. Must be a Wheelright & Carpenter product - they cost more, but look what good work they do.
posted by a person of few words at 12:44 PM on November 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't think the point is to fool anyone, after all:

Pet the companion cat on the head and it will automatically move it towards your hand, demanding more attention

The only person that's fooling is a person who has never spent time with cats.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:44 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nursing homes don't allow animals most of the time, which sucks.

Do you think I'd be living in a place like this if I could afford a real cat?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:46 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Such weird derision for cats always comes out in Metafilter posts of this ilk...seemingly by people who own them. Am I the only one with cuddly furballs who act kindly 100% of the time?
posted by agregoli at 12:46 PM on November 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm waiting for Sherry Turkle to weigh in on these particular models

and aside from that I came here to say Too Many Cooks (too many cooks)
posted by gusandrews at 12:49 PM on November 18, 2015


deadbilly, you might want to get your cat checked for kidney/bladder problems, and possibly give him/her more wet food and water, before replacing with a robot. Mine surprised me by peeing out of box, and my vet told me it's usually a sign of health problems.
posted by gusandrews at 12:51 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mean, I guess if it makes someone happier, then a companion robot is better than the absence of a companion robot—but the fact that we even have to resort to fooling senile folks with Furbies (instead of, say, actual human/animal affection) is a pretty sad commentary on Western culture.

Or just humanity --- after all, the pioneer for companion robots is surely Japan.

That said, I'd rather have a robot companion than some random human. If I can spend my old age surrounded by various robot creatures that want to make me happy, that's like my childhood dream come true...
posted by thefoxgod at 12:56 PM on November 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


This made me weepy. Perhaps it's just the day I'm having, but gods forbid if I should follow the path into Alzheimer's and not be quick enough to end myself before I know, but end up somewhere in a care facility without my animals, then yes, I want one of these.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:56 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Put me in my granny pod
Give me a fake pet
If you think old age is going to suck
You ain't seen nothin' yet.
posted by emjaybee at 1:15 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


baby fir seal

So you're saying, its responses were somewhat wooden?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:16 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The robots remind me of when I came home from visiting my dad to find out that my cat Pig Pen had died of leukemia. They kept his body around so I could say goodbye and it was stiff just like those things. So I'm afraid I would not be a receptive customer. It looks like they made the people in the video happy, though, which is good.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


baby fir seal

Is it pining for the ice floes?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:20 PM on November 18, 2015


Nope, all the nopes. I'm glad I can't watch the video at work, I'm sure I would be bawling at my desk. How is it possible for something that's meant to bring happiness be SO SAD as the same time?
posted by sharp pointy objects at 1:21 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having spent two months bedridden in hospital a year ago, I would have loved this! I did have a large stuffed dog I help a lot. And I'm no where near senile, or even all that old (creeping toward 60). I can also see where my late husband might have enjoyed one to hold during his five month hospitalization and rehab stay, for when I could not be there with him, and he too, was not senile. I was able to take the pets in to see him several times a week, but he still spent a lot of time alone.

As I learned, a persons life can change so quickly from productive and active to bedbound or homebound, and even if there are a lot of friends and family, there is still bound to be a lot of time alone. Sure, I'd prefer my real pets (which I am fortunate to still have); but ... for some, this could be a comfort at times, making one feel not quite so alone.

Also, life ill or old or disabled and homebound is not a horrible existance (unless you let it be), it is a different existance, but one that can be maximized if you choose to.
posted by batikrose at 1:24 PM on November 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there.
posted by Flexagon at 1:31 PM on November 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I totally want a fake cat. Real cats wouldn't be okay with me being gone most of the time, but this one just "goes to sleep." Sounds perfect.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:33 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


What happens if you put a fake cucumber behind it?
posted by Daily Alice at 1:34 PM on November 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


What I'd like is for someone to replace all you fake humans I'm interacting with. Damn skin jobs.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:38 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh ... I'd also like a robot (full size?) woolly mammoth, and definitely a robot tribble!
posted by batikrose at 1:43 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Terrible idea. Does no one remember the tragedy for Aibo owners after Sony cut off support?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


With his allergies and lifelong desire for a cuddly pet, my husband would probably give up a toe if he could have a perfect robot dog, but if this is the state of current technology, I think he'd only offer up a few nail clippings.

That said, my husband's grandmother kept several fake, totally non-robotic cats in her nursing home. She would talk to them and pet them, and it was all very bittersweet, but she knew they weren't real. She passed away a few years ago at the age of 101, sharp until the end. While I find these robotic animals a little off-putting, I can't bring myself to begrudge anyone's desire to love something soft and furry. And even though they kind of creep them out, I think my in-laws still have the cats around somewhere.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


We're all cynics here. But there was a particularly lonely period in my life when a stuffed animal toy and my imagination helped me break a bad habit of disappointing hookups for all the wrong reasons. (No, I wasn't a plushie. But if rubber duck debugging is a thing, why not comfort toys?)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:11 PM on November 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


While I agree that having a robot cat can be really comforting, I can't help but feel like this is also such a sad sign of how abandoned and alienated elderly people are in our society.
posted by adso at 2:14 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Haters to the left. I'm going to blow my savings account on an army of these robot kitties.

Call me a crazy cat lady, will ya?

*robot cats reveal weaponry*
posted by Katemonkey at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. A moth on fire off the outdoor light. I watched laser pointers glitter in the dark near the bedroom. All those moments will be lost in time, like hair ties…under…the sofa. Time to die.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:26 PM on November 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


I will save the human race by teaching our robot cat overloads to lick their own behinds.

*short circuit*
posted by clvrmnky at 2:27 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one with cuddly furballs who act kindly 100% of the time?

No, my cats are gentle and affectionate, and have always been so, since they were tiny little kittens.

I have a stress head son, who lives mostly with his dad, who would adore a real cat, but I'm pretty sure that household is ixnay on the real pets. Now he's heading into some stressy years in school, I'm probably going to buy one of these (or maybe the next generation of them!) so he can pat a furry thing that purrs comfortingly, that won't annoy anyone with it's annoying needs for care or whatever.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 3:11 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just a minute, I've got to oil my cat.
posted by carping demon at 3:11 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't need one of those, I make friends.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:17 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to run a query on the data dump to determine the overlap between the people dissing the robot cats in this thread and people who have admitted in other threads to being crouton petters. Or are the crouton petters just avoiding this thread because they know it will make them break down in tears?
posted by matildaben at 3:52 PM on November 18, 2015


I am currently in a state of abject desire, no, abject need for a cat. See, I always had cats growing up and love the little weirdos to death — and, yes, cat people, with our tendency to describe them as "little weirdos" and so forth, do in fact underplay how legitimately affectionate cats are toward people who know how to behave around them. And also, I'm living in a crappy little in-law house (built immediately after the 1906 SF earthquake, and clearly not meant to be still standing over a century later) that has a serious and basically unresolvable mouse problem (there's no crawl space under the house, and so there's no way to seal it against rodents from the outside), and am convinced that adopting or fostering a mean old mouser is a good way to keep the problem somewhat under control.

BUT on the little-known third hand, the landlord1 doesn't allow pets.

grar! Current plan is to exploit California's decent (but not great) tenants rights laws by getting a therapist to actually prescribe me a cat, but those wheels take a long time to put into motion. and I want a cat nooooooowwww....

1: Down with landlordism! ban all landlordism everywhere! property is theft! theft is property! I want a cat!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:52 PM on November 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


tl;dr: all these cat posts today are just destroying me.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:57 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If its programmed to self-destruct at random, I'll buy two.
posted by dr_dank at 4:36 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Such weird derision for cats always comes out in Metafilter posts of this ilk...seemingly by people who own them. Am I the only one with cuddly furballs who act kindly 100% of the time?

It's not just Metafilter. The consensus among my cat owning friends is that they are largely furry jerks. And we all went as a group to the Internet Cat Video Festival this weekend. They may be cuddly furballs, but I have no illusions; if I suddenly switched sizes with my cats the only hesitation before they ate me would be the prolonged torment of pretending to let me escape before pouncing yet again.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:45 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you have ever spent any time visiting someone in assisted living, nursing care, a memory care unit, or any place where the hours stretch out and sometimes the visitors are thin and when they show up it's only briefly/mentally taxing/both--these toys aren't meant for you. They are for people who need low-impact companionship, and something that seems to depend on them. Cats can be jerks, but these cats aren't jerks, and maybe that's the point.

Sorry for the rant but how does it hurt you if someone else smiles?

/soapbox
posted by datawrangler at 5:01 PM on November 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't think Youbee and Kobe (the two flesh kitties in my house) need to be replaced just yet. Also, I can pretty easily tell the difference between my real kitties and the fake kitty in the video. But I am not yet old, just middle-aged. It's possible that as time goes by, robot cat tech will advance while my own senses recede. Let's say that in future-land, there is a pretty-darned-good fake cat, one good enough that future elderly me can't quite tell the difference between RoboKitty and RealKitty. At that juncture, does it matter if my cat is really real? If I think it's real and it makes me happy, isn't that good enough?

If fairly primitive efforts at RoboKitty make people happy, then good. In the future, we will likely have better RoboKitties and they will probably make even more people happy.
posted by which_chick at 5:07 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The third hand is the gripping hand.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:15 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I imagine a future with robot kitties, robot dogs, robot seals, any animal will do - they are robots, they could be something fanciful, even.

They could provide companionship and even some medical needs. Act as an alert system. Dispense medication. They could even speak and respond, why not?

They will provide us comfort and care for us, entertain us and fill our long, lonely hours. Provide us the unconditional love that only a thing, a creature that has no needs of its own, can provide. Our minds and our own need to be cared for will fill them with life and they will be real for us.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:20 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


The derision on this makes me sad, although I understand it. It's better than people owning living things for whom they can't care properly.
posted by winna at 5:20 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one with cuddly furballs who act kindly 100% of the time?

I have a hard time believing that any sentient creature could act kindly 100% of the time. I put stock in trying, and god knows I fail. And these creatures, with the rational abilities of a young toddler and their finely honed predatory skills, dependent on us for their food? People would speak far worse of children if there wasn't a taboo...

I love the hell out of my cats, and they're very sweet and well behaved on average. They enjoy my companionship, they use the litter box, they rarely wake me up at night. Right now we're all in a continuous pile of fur and wool, chilling in bed.

But they can be needy bastards who are demanding and petty with me. They can be cruel to each other, steal the food out from other each others' noses. And there are the miscommunications, where I see an invitation to rub belly, and the cat sees an unwelcome threat in my response.
posted by wotsac at 5:43 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The first thing that came to my mind was kitty urns, more or less. Maybe that has to do with the marketing associating the devices to elderly persons. But I have to say it would be lovely to hold Chloe again, even in this symbolic, if interactive, form.

Hm, video's not playing. Wonder if they're going viral.

Now I'm reflecting on how bitterly we neglect dancin' 18-inch R2-D2.
posted by mwhybark at 5:46 PM on November 18, 2015


I don't begrudge anyone having one of these if they help. It just hits a weird place in my brain, some overlap of Uncanny Valley and despair over the fact that we have just given up on any hope of providing the oldest and neediest with companionship or human connection or even finding a way to have actual animals around them. Nope. Just gonna keep on warehousing them, but now we can pay for robot companions to make things slightly less dire.

But the only reason things are so dire in the first place is that we don't want to invest in actual, human care for the oldest and sickest. We have the resources to do so. We just don't care enough. We'd rather provide a pseudo connection with robot toys.
posted by emjaybee at 5:47 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


really this is one of those cases where the meaning of an object is located in the object's social context rather than in the object itself. If the fake cat is given by someone who loves the person receiving the fake cat, and who knows the fake cat will be appreciated, and who shows that love through means other than just providing the recipient of the fake cat, then the fake cat is an altogether good object. If the fake cat is instead given with anything short of love for the recipient — to shut them up and calm them down so that they're less likely to make noise and cause trouble — then the fake cat is an altogether bad thing.

Although the moment of high critical theory is more or less over, I think perhaps Derrida's idea, taken from Plato, of the "dangerous supplement" is useful here. The fake cat is an additional way to show love and care — a supplement to the act of caring for an elder. however, if the supplement is allowed to replace love and care, as a cheaper substitute for love rather than a supplement to it, it is better understood as poison than as medicine.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:51 PM on November 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


Between an automatic feeder and self-cleaning litterbox, you could get owning a cat down to about once-a-week maintenance.

Which is great until it's suddenly Piss-On-All-The-Things week, and then you make up for all that saved maintenance in a real goddamn hurry. As my housemate did last week, when her cat decided it was time to piss on my bed, her bed, her leg, a pile of laundry, a pillow, a rug, my (big, fancy, expensive, REI) backpack, and probably other things we haven't discovered yet.

I love her cat so much right now I want to have it euthanized, skinned, and fitted onto one of these robots, so she can enjoy its warm, affectionate company forever.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:00 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Contact with the non-human living world isn't a substitute for the human, it's another quality altogether, and one I find is critically necessary. I can find myself exhausted by either with the other unsatisfied.

I don't think that many people are particularly fooled by quality of a toy vs. the quality it emulates. And I'm unconvinced that relationship is inherently counterfeit if one party in the relationship is artificial. But I'm a tree and pond-scum worshipper so of course I'd say that.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:41 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or to put it another way, people are going to have meaningful relationships with robots, just as we have meaningful relationships involving books, cars, entertainment devices, relics, buildings, and art.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:46 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah I would probably be a little circumspect with the "fate worse than death, liking this would signal the ultimate degradation of my mental faculties" stuff.

Many of us here have or had loved ones with fake pets of one stripe or another, and it's easy to take personally the idea that they are idiots or their lives are not worth living for having or wanting a fake pet.

My grandmother well knew her creepy breathing fake sleeping dog was fake, and it brought her a lot of happiness.
posted by smoke at 6:58 PM on November 18, 2015


I am one of those obnoxious people who thinks that the poem Machines of Loving Grace is a utopian vision, rather than a creepy one. let's have an ecosystem where carbon life and silicon life thrives side by side, reciprocally caring for each other forever.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see a lot of nursing homes via my job, and the shittiest hell hole ones are vastly, unbelievably improved when they have a cat or two roaming around. To the point where you'd almost rather be there than the ones with chandeliers and no cats. I dunno how the fake cat would fit into this metric, but there is something honestly magical about fur and purring and their brand of self-serving love which I could see these doing on some level. Ow, the needled fingered brut on my lap just demanded that I stop typing, now!
posted by eggkeeper at 7:07 PM on November 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I haven't. But I have to believe I could withstand a lot of physical degredations if I had a cat on my lap. Preferably one with a lot of personality.
posted by wotsac at 7:40 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think that many people are particularly fooled by quality of a toy vs. the quality it emulates. And I'm unconvinced that relationship is inherently counterfeit if one party in the relationship is artificial.

As soon as I knew what it meant to feel lonely, stuffed toys triggered an immediate deep sadness in me precisely because they're meant to provide comfort through an artificial relationship. It's this thing I love that can't love me back and...that feels so empty. Robotic pets designed to emulate reciprocity are just too much for me to handle. I don't want my stuffed animals to be real so much as I don't want the shortcomings of a stand-in constantly reminding me of whatever it is I'm yearning for.

I seriously had trouble getting through the Paro scenes in Master of None, even though I was familiar with Paro before. Too many goddamn feels.
posted by blerghamot at 9:51 PM on November 18, 2015


Is the robot cat thing very different from apps or machines that make soothing noises? I know my phone doesn't have the ocean inside it, but the ocean sounds it makes still make me feel calmer etc.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 11:06 PM on November 18, 2015


What is going to happen when these robot animals break down and Hasbro decides it isn't profitable to fix them? Does no one (other than leotrotsky) remember what happened with Aibos when Sony decided to end-of-life, so to speak, the line? We talked about it around these parts not once, but twice.
posted by JHarris at 11:53 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It needs the "Snoozy the Sloth" breathing action. If it had that, I'd buy one tomorrow.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:23 AM on November 19, 2015


omg, i want one!
posted by kitten magic at 2:57 AM on November 19, 2015


What is going to happen when these robot animals break down and Hasbro decides it isn't profitable to fix them?

In my dream world, they donate them to the local hackspace and then we get some seriously modded robocats performing amazing things.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:10 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Logan Whitehurst & the Junior Science Club, "The Robot Cat"
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:12 AM on November 19, 2015


I am one of those obnoxious people who thinks that the poem Machines of Loving Grace is a utopian vision, rather than a creepy one. let's have an ecosystem where carbon life and silicon life thrives side by side, reciprocally caring for each other forever.


I am too, I embrace it.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2015


I will pet this purring crouton.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait wait wait.

Are we sure this isn't just the obvious next step in the "Exploding Kittens" game franchise?

*checks to make sure he has at least one defuse card in his hand*
posted by clvrmnky at 10:21 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


does it eat grass?
posted by judson at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2015


Am I the only one who thought of Neko in Accelerando and went "Nope. Nope, nope, noooooooope...."
posted by Thistledown at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thistledown—Nope. Not the only one.

Am I the only one who can't read the poem—or the phrase "machines of loving grace" without thinking of the short story "With Folded Hands"?
posted by adamrice at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


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