How does a “robo-cat” sound? One that can do such tasks as providing the elderly with such tasks as reminding them when it is time to take their medicine or helping find the aged person’s eyeglasses. It also comes with the convenience of not having to worry about the more unpleasant side of having real cats like maintaining a litter box.
Such a cat already exists. Manufactured by toymaker Hasbro, it has been on the market for two years already, with senior citizens as the toy’s target market. It can serve as a perfect “companion” to the elderly. It is capable of purring and meowing, and can even appear to lick its paw and roll over to ask for a belly rub.
But with the help of scientists, the toymaker wants to level up what the toy can do by adding artificial intelligence to the “Joy for All” robotic cat. Hasbro and scientists at Brown University have received a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for their study of adding AI to the toy cat.
The Brown-Hasbro project aims to develop additional capabilities for the cats to help the elderly with simple tasks. The researchers are still studying what such tasks should be. They may range from everyday simple stuff for adults in their advanced age such as finding lost objects, reminding the owner to call someone or go to his or her doctor’s appointment.
The researchers are quick to clarify, however, that they don’t expect the robotic cats to replace what only humans can do such as washing the dishes or fetching the newspaper or even have a conversation with their owners.
The robotic cats main offering is really just to provide comfort to humans, especially the elderly who are often left at home while the other able-bodied adults go to work. The makers and researchers also want to keep the price of the toys affordable. The current version is priced at $100.
The project’s name is “Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support” or ARIES. The scientists will be employing surveys, focus groups and interviews for a better appreciation of everyday living for an older adult.