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Recently, robot pet popularity has surged. While we can attribute this to developments in robotics and technology, market and consumer demands also play major roles in this new fascination and interest in robot pets.
Let’s look at how exactly these influenced the progression of robot pet consumer trends and popularity over time.
While the first known robot pet invented was Sparko in 1940, the market did not show interest in the robot dog. It looked and moved too mechanically thus failing to even reach market shelves.
After 50 years, Furby came into the picture and it exploded the market. The creators of Furby seemed to take notes from the failure of Sparko. The market and consumers showed more favor towards pet toys that still looked adorable hence, Furby was made to be furry, fuzzy, and cuddly owl-like pets. However, the breakthrough lies in the inclusion of smart features that stationary toys simply cannot offer yet at the time.
With the commercial success of Furby, the introduction of robot pets to the market and consumers opened the doors for many manufacturers to create cuddly and adorable models that possess “smart” features.
Not long after, Sony launched AIBO, which many considered as the first robot dog in history. The Development of AIBO came to be as the market and consumers seemed to have outgrown the “basic” smart features of Furby. The bright and cuddly appearance of Furby also limited its market to children, and this left young adults and adults who are fascinated with owning a robot pet, well, petless. Hence, AIBO was a commercial success.
This robot dog was able to balance cute and futuristic. It had the appearance of a futuristic dog, enough for one to clearly say that it is indeed a robot pet, and had the features of a “serious” smart robot pet. Thanks to AIBO and the growing standards of the market, manufacturers started to develop more “serious” robot pets and would later incorporate more AI features to meet consumer expectations and demands.
Once the market saw that robot pets could be serious toys, manufacturers saw the need to change the functionalities of these robots from “play toys” to “functional ones”.
This shift was pioneered by Dr. Takanori Shibata, a Japanese Engineer, who created PARO the robot seal. This robot pet brought psychological enrichment and joy to senior citizens, especially those diagnosed with dementia. After running tests and experiments, it was seen that PARO brought good benefits to its owners.
With this, more manufacturers saw that there is now a market for robot pet companions that can help out in the healthcare industry and enrich the lives of owners. Hence, the development of segmented robot pets that are made for healthcare, seniors, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and more.
As the market and consumers grow more fond and accepting of robot pets, society is starting to view them as lifelong companions. Thus, there is now a demand for more realistic robot pets in features or appearance. So much so that there have been Kickstarter campaigns and long waitlists to get realistic robot pets that are not yet open to the market. Case in point, the Tombot has a growing waitlist daily, and this robot dog hasn’t even hit the market yet.
Manufacturers responded by creating robot pets that exhibit lifelike features like farting, adaptive learning, and emotionally responsive capabilities to name a few. There are also robot pet models that are more realistic in the sense that they have advanced security features leading them to act more like “smart guardians” or “home assistants”.
Since the development of robot pets in 1940, their functionalities and appearances have changed drastically. While changes in robotics and technology play a role, the changing market and consumer demands also influence the progression of robot pet consumer trends and popularity. Hence, to meet the new standards of society, manufacturers and inventors must continue to develop and innovate robot pets.