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Robot Pets vs. Virtual Pets: Differences, Benefits, and Drawbacks


For people who are not capable of owning or taking care of real pets, having robot pets and virtual pets can be good alternatives. Unlike their living counterparts, robot pets and virtual pets require less time, effort, and money from the owner so they may continue to ‘live’ and be a companion. However, there still lies a certain degree of responsibility when owning either of them.

With that, let’s take a look at the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of robot pets vs. virtual pets to help you decide which one is a better fit for you.

Robot Pets vs. Virtual Pets: Differences

Robot Pets vs. Virtual Pets: Differences, Benefits, and Drawbacks

At its most basic premise, robot pets are artificially intelligent machines that are usually designed to resemble actual pets. Advanced robot pet models can be equipped with sensors, cameras, and machine-learning algorithms to be able to interact with their owners but cheaper robot pets are usually limited to just basic commands and features. Regardless of how advanced or basic robot pets are, all of them are physical AI machines that can be held and have more similar attributes to their living counterparts.

However, since they aren’t alive, robot pets cannot grow or evolve —even if there are models that can be fed. Their “minds” may evolve and they may learn some of your behavior, but robot pets will have the same physical state and appearance forever.

On the other hand, virtual pets simulate real-life pet ownership through a screen. They are made out of pixels and chips, making them completely digital. In terms of visual appearance, virtual pets can also look like actual pets but they are usually designed to have exaggerated or fantasy-like features. There also a lot of virtual pets are created to be unique or made-up pets like the Tamagotchi or some Neopets.

Since virtual pets live in the digital world, they can grow and evolve so long as their owners keep feeding and taking care of them.

Ultimately, the main difference between robot pets and virtual pets is their form. Robot pets are lifelike concrete AI machines that can be physically present with their owners but can never grow. In contrast, virtual pets are digital avatars that exist in the digital world but with constant TLC can evolve.

Robot Pets vs. Virtual Pets: Benefits

Robot Pets vs. Virtual Pets: Differences, Benefits, and Drawbacks

Robot pets and virtual pets share a few similar benefits but they also bring unique ones to the table.

Shared Benefits

Compared to owning actual pets, robot pets and virtual pets require fewer responsibilities. There’s no need to prepare meals, physically feed them, train them, or take them to the vet. There is also minimal to no cost being shelled out to care for them. In addition to that, purchasing food, vitamins, or medicine will no longer be a financial responsibility that will be accounted for.

While it’s not to the same degree as owning real pets, robot pets and virtual pets can still teach responsibility to their owners. Robot pet owners need to be careful when handling their units so they can have a long product lifespan and virtual pet owners still need to feed their avatars on a daily so they can grow.

Benefits of Robot Pets

When it comes to health benefits, robot pets bring more to the table. Real-life stories and studies indicate that owning robot pets is beneficial to the elderly, especially those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia because of their therapeutic uses in healthcare. Robot pets can play a pivotal role in diminishing feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, and stress levels by simply being a 24/7 physical companion that owners can hug and interact with.

In terms of physical play, robot pets also have more benefits. Some models can encourage interactive play and physical activities with their owners such as walking, dancing, and playing programmed games.

Robot pets can also mentally stimulate their owners because of their machine-learning capabilities and technology. They can interact with and respond to their owners, which can help in improving memory quality and social skills. Additionally, this also provides fun entertainment, which is an added benefit.

Benefits of Virtual Pets

One major benefit of virtual pets is the ability to grow and evolve. As they are “living” digital avatars, virtual pets can be fed, given water, and taken care of so they may be able to grow and possibly even multiply. People who would like to have that aspect of pet ownership would greatly benefit from virtual pets.

Creativity and mental stimulation are also benefits that virtual pets can offer. As virtual pets can be customized and some can go on virtual adventures, owners are encouraged to interact and make their pets unique to them.

Robot Pets vs. Virtual Pets: Drawbacks

While robot pets and virtual pets come with benefits, there are also a few drawbacks to owning them.

Some ethical drawbacks and considerations include disillusion and a possible lack of compassion towards real-life pets. Complete dependency on robot pets and distinguishing them as living counterparts can confuse some owners, which is a major drawback to how people can treat robot pets and actual pets.

Another is their inability to grow and evolve. One of the major joys and fulfillment of owning pets is the fact that we can take care of them enough to see them grow up. However, robot pets are not living beings so they are limited to staying in the same state that they came in forever.

As for virtual pets, a major drawback of theirs is how they can provide physical companionship to their owners. Since they live behind screens, owners cannot pet or touch them. When one is feeling lonely, they also cannot grab their virtual pet from the screen to hug them.

Final Note

While robot pets and virtual pets are not exact replacements for their living counterparts, they still provide a level of pet ownership and companionship that humans can benefit from. However, they do have differences and drawbacks which is why it pays to read up on which kind of pet is better suited for you before deciding on one.

If you think robot pets are for you, then you can check out our guide on the best ones here!

Linda Takahashi

American-born New Yorker Linda Johnson has been fascinated with robotic machines since she was a teenager, when her father, a surgeon, would introduce to her the machines that he used to perform keyhole surgeries. This interest led her to pursue a tech degree at the University of Washington, where she met Sota Takahashi. They married and now have two children. Linda’s father developed dementia later on and was given a robot pet as a companion. She saw how much having a robot pet friend helped her father, which is what led her to create this website and advocate to spread word about robot pets and how they can help both children and the elderly.

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