We need to talk about Kevin the hamster.
And we need to talk about pets and tech… Actually we don’t… But it’s a light hearted topic, everyone loves pets, they bring out the child and the parent in us, and the interwebs seem to like cats. So let’s go there.
One of the first to mix pets and tech was the infamous Pets.com back at the turn of the Millenium. Those old enough to remember the internet boom and bust will probably recall Pets.com was up there with Boo.com for the ability to convert hard cash into literally nothing at frightening speed. The rate at which a Startup can convert raised millions into warm air has been called the ‘Burn Rate’ ever since. Pets.com raised and burned $180 million over the two years it traded from November 1998 to November 2000. Almost nothing can spend money like a hype fuelled startup selling dog food below cost, they had 21 tonnes left over when they stopped trading. It went to a huskie charity apparently. Kind.
Cats are better anyway, and I just stumbled across a startup called Moggie.me that aims to furnish cats with a smart collar to aid communications with their ‘owner.’ The collar collects data and tells you via an app if your cat is feeling ill, or well, or if it needs something. “Moggie understands and improves cats health and wellbeing through better communication with cat parents” gushes the pre launch website. There’s a team of six grown adults investing their time, effort and probably other people’s money to create this feline hypochondriac by proxy enterprise whilst solving no problems for anyone. Although it may be an important step forward for Munchies Housen Syndrome. By web proxy.
And then taking it a step forward into a mildly dystopian inevitability there’s the point where actual pets are replaced by robotic ones. It’s thought these may provide some comfort for elderly people, a robotic pet is low maintenance, it can be programmed to go to its recharging bed every night, and can simultaneously act as a fall alarm, a first responder, a chatty friend, a nurse, a storage of memories, a handsfree phone, and whatever other functions you want to add in. A carpet sweeper why not. A robo pet of the future may well be the hub of the household tech, replacing the seven remote controls on your coffee table.
There’s also some useful technology in the pet sector. Cats and dogs have identity chips these days, and that’s a genuine improvement in terms of locating and reuniting them, as well as storing their medical data. There’s also GPS trackers for pets, much smaller but similar to the ones lions on reservations wear, enabling the ‘animal parents’ to know the whereabouts of their pooch at pretty much any time, providing it’s a hefty enough animal to carry the battery pack. You can also get tech toys for cats and dogs, although the more tech they have the less interested they are in it. My girlfriend’s cat full heartedly rejected her Christmas gift of a battery powered squeaky mouse in favour of the cardboard selfie box I bought for 50p from the cat shelter charity shop.
So is this the beginning of the end for pets? Will they go the way of their dot com predecessor and be replaced by an Ai cat or dog that never sheds hair, requires no feeding or grooming, knows when to recharge itself, and can order you a nostalgic Hawaiian pizza on command? Will our pets of the future talk to us, tell us stories of the good old days, remind us to take our medicine, call our grandchildren on their birthdays, and call for help if our body temperatures drop to a concerning low?
It’s all quite likely even in the next few years. My vision of RoboPet looks a lot like wireless Alexa in a fluffy skin you stroke to activate and that monitors your heartbeat and vital signs whilst you pet it.
Available in cat, dog, or giant rodent.
I want the Ro.