Will robot pets cause real pet unemployment? / ABC WA Regional Drive

Some amazing stats have been released on how besotted Australians are with and how much they spend on their 24 million fur babies / pets:

  • Australians spent $12.2 billion last year
  • Almost two in five households have dogs (38%)
  • Almost three in 10 households have cats (29%)
  • More than one in 10 households keep fish (12%)
  • More than one in 10 households keep birds (12%)
  • 3% of Australian households keep reptiles as pets
  • 3% of households have other small mammals as pets
  • The Northern Territory is home to the highest rate of pet ownership, with 82% of households keeping a pet of some kind
  • The average dog-owning household spends $1,975 on their dogs, $622 on food and $397 on veterinary services

and this started ABC WA Drive’s Barry Nicholls asking about the future of pets and pet ownership.

Everything points to a continued up spend on pets moving forward with key retailers dedicating more and more aisle space to the profitable sale of pet food, accessories ($1.1 billion in 2016) and clothing, many of these items, like premium foods, did not exist 3 years ago.

Our desire to have pets in our home is also causing many State governments to explore house rental legislation allowing pets, on the payment of an additional pet bond, to be allowed to move into rental properties with their owners.

Dog walking services, pet sharing schemes like borrowmypooch / dogshare / pawshake, pet boarding and day care centres are all doing roaring business and likely to continue into the next decade.

Pet Technology is also on the rise with devices like iCPooch which lets owners video conference with their dogs and PetBot that creates a video of your pet whenever they approach the camera that gets emailed out to you and Kittyo that allows owners to stream live video of their cats and remotely make a laser dance across the room for the cat to chase, are all on the rise as are pet fitness gadgets dealing with the growing issue of pet obesity.

Further down the track the North Carolina State University believes we will be able to communicate with our pets and are currently trialling a pet harness that collects a dogs biometric information and interprets it for what the dog might be thinking or feeling. Smart harnesses are also being trialled elsewhere primarily for use with working and service dogs but down the track available for all.

Genetic modification is also a possible future, with a long history of breeding pets that better suit owner needs and desires now being fast tracked by gene editing and maybe one day the Jurassic Park fantasy of reanimating extinct species.

And of course every discussion of the future has to have a robot horizon and pet robots are definitely a strong possibility.

Kids in the 90’s took great care of their digital pets when they played their Tamagotchis and today we have dementia patients interacting with toy baby seals who keep a digital eye on their owners and at any sign of distress send an automatic emergency call to nursing staff and we know from history how quickly we attach ourselves to our toys and consider them human-like, so talking, walking, playing Barbie robots, might just be around the Xmas gift giving corner.

A fascinating discussion on a less travelled future of topic, have a listen now (6 mins 9 seconds) and then share your thoughts.