More than 90 million families in the US own a pet, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association. And why not? Studies have shown that pets could help lower stress, improve blood pressure, and reduce feelings of loneliness. The only problem is that pets come with responsibilities such as feeding them, giving them regular exercise, and taking them for annual check-ups. Many elderly individuals can reliably meet these pet needs; for them, a robotic pet could be the solution.
Vanguard’s Moflin is an AI Pet Robot was on display as part of Japan’s JETRO pavilion at CES 2020. The device is designed to have emotional capabilities similar to a natural pet. It is almost the size of your hand and has warm, soft fur. It can produce sounds and movements to mimic a natural pet. It responds to handling, acting startled at first but then settling down and encouraging more stroking of its head and back. It evens reacts to sounds. When “sleeping” in its recharging station, it will stir occasionally and make small sounds. Over time, it will evolve its own distinct personality in response to the way you interact with it.
It is worth noting that the product has gone through more than one crowd-funding program and has missed several promised ship dates. According to the latest Indiegogo page, the company has developed a prototype but apparently has not yet started manufacturing.
More than just a toy, the Moflin can be a social companion. This can be especially helpful for the elderly who may be dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness. These problems can be precursors for more serious emotional, mental, and even physical health issues.