Think your’re up to date on all the futuristic cat news? Think again. According to an AP article published yesterday, Scientists at Brown University and Hasbro (yes, the toy company) are teaming up to create a robotic cat with artificial intelligence, and they’ve received a million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to do it.
Hasbro’s robotic cat, the “Joy for All’ cat, has actually been available for a couple years. Part of its “Joy for All” line of companion pets, Hasbro suggests that it can “bring joy and comfort to aging loved ones without any vet bills to worry about.” It “responds to petting, hugging and motion much like the real ones,” but comes with the added perk of not requiring “any special care or feeding. ”Complete with “VibraPurr” that “sounds and feels like real purring,” and “cat-like movements and sounds,” the robotic cat makes one begin to question why humanity has been putting up with litter boxes for so long.
What Hasbro’s cat doesn’t have yet, and what the scientists at Brown intend to provide, is the intelligence to help older adults with simple tasks. But don’t get too excited; Betram Malle, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, attempted to keep expectations moderate by clarifying that the cat “isn’t going to iron and wash dishes,” or have conversations. The tasks the team have in mind are more along the lines of finding misplaced items or providing doctor’s appointment reminders.
For those disconcerted by the concept of a talking cat, have no fear: the scientists agree with you. How the cat might communicate appointment reminders remains undecided, but even the Brown team in charge of an AI robotic cat agree that talking is a step too far. Computer science professor Michael Littman clarified that “cats don’t generally talk to you,” and that it might be unsettling if it did.
Whether the AI cats will be capable of conquering humanity in the great robotic uprising of 2027 remains to be seen, but they definitely won’t be equipped to tell us about it. Until then, one hopes they provide comfort to older people as intended.