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As robot pet research and development continues to progress, these artificially intelligent machines are becoming increasingly popular in the mass market. It leads us to ask what exactly is the complete timeline of robot pets and how they came to be the advanced robots that they are today. In this article, we seek to answer just that and shed light on the historical milestones and development of robotic pets.
The first known robotic pet to be invented was Sparko in 1940. Sparko is a robotic dog made by the American company Westinghouse. However, it never reached the shelves of stores nor got sold to the public due to a lack of market interest. Past accounts have reported Sparko to be a robotic dog that can only move its hind legs and has no other features to offer.
It would not be another 50 years before the next robotic pet was invented, and that would be the commercially successful Furby.
The timeline and history of robotic pets stretches back to 1940 with Sparko and continues to progress today. Seeing as how humans have made new developments in robotics and continue to strive to make these robots more life-like and similar to our own pets and other animals, it’s interesting to take a look at their ever-evolving timeline.
The first known invention of a pet robot, Sparko. Due to limited features, design, and abilities, Sparko lacked public interest and was not made available for market release and selling.
The gremlin-like pet robot, Furby, was invented and sold worldwide. With more than 40 million units sold, Furby became a commercial success and made the market more open to owning a robotic companion.
Sony launched AIBO. Equipped with more features and a more lovable but futuristic design, AIBO is hailed by many as the first robot dog in history despite the existence of Sparko. AIBO marks the first of many robotic dogs that humans will soon love as Sony releases new AIBO dogs in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
FurReal Friends was launched and introduced robotic cats to the world. Their debut of this product line became a success and FurReal Friends has been a category leader ever since.
PARO was created by Japanese engineer, Dr. Takanori Shibata. His goal was to bring psychological enrichment and joy to senior citizens, especially those diagnosed with dementia. With that, the PARO seal was created and to this day is the most popular pet of the brand. These products are now widely used as companions in the health sectors all over the world.
Inspired by Sony’s AIBO, Keijo Lahetkangas developed the Puppy and Rover robot dogs. With new developments in the field of robotics, the Puppy and Rover dogs could see and watch their surroundings with a built-in camera. This became a milestone for the category as robotic companions can now have cameras as eyes and can respond to be more animatronic.
Joy for All launched their robotic cats in December 2015. While there was already a line of robotic companions for senior citizens, Joy for All became a pivotal development in the timeline of the category as they used extensive input, research, and consumer insights from older adults, senior citizens, and the general market in creating their line of robots. Two years later, Joy for All would branch out to Ageless Innovation.
As more progress and development in robotics are occurring, many players in the category are emerging. Several market leaders are Ageless Innovation LLC, BIRANCO Ltd., and Tombot Inc. The latter is a much-awaited release because of how advanced the Tombot is from all existing models in the market.
The further progress of robotics led to the invention of more robots with new models becoming more advanced and equipped than the ones before them. The category has come a long way since its invention back in 1940. Built-in sensors and a machine-learning operating system are a few of the standard features people now expect from robot pets these days.
The most common robotic companions in the market are the following:
While manufacturers would create models and lines of other animals such as a parrot, seal, and even insects, these are the usual lines that the market gravitate towards.
CES stands for Consumer Technology Association and is the only trade show that showcases various tech categories in a single event. In CES 2023, the robotic “toy” that debuted was the Dog-E by WowWee.
Sony discontinued it after manufacturing it for seven years. The company cites “disappointing sales” as the reason behind its decision to say goodbye to AIBO.
While Boston Dynamics manufactures Spot the robot dog, this robotic invention is aimed at industries such as military, security, and logistics. Although some would use it for office, home, or outdoor applications, the creation of Boston Dynamics is not intended for companionship but rather ‘labor’.