There are a bunch of reasons you may want a robot pet. Maybe you’re tired of coming home to an empty, silent apartment, tired of sitting down at the dinner table with no one by your side or at your feet. Or maybe you’re looking for a Christmas present for your kid, something to keep them occupied so they’ll stop bugging you all the time. And so on.
Well, depending on who or what the pet is for, the form your robot is going to take will differ. So we’ll talk about some factors to consider when going shopping, before introducing you to ten sweethearts you’re going to want to take home.
How to Choose a Robot Pet – Buying Guide
Is the pet for you, your kid, or your grandmother? Are you looking for laughs, or something soothing to stroke? These are all things that matter when deciding which robot pet is the best for you.
Choosing Based on Appearance: Which is More Important? Physical Touch or Smart Features?
We know–never judge a book by it’s cover. But in the world of robot pets, it’s a little different. Because whether or not your pet has fur is going to tell you just what it’s capable of doing.
Encased in Plastic: Moves Around and Responds to Your Calls
You can’t nuzzle your face into these. But what these little mounds of plastic give up in physical appearance, they make up for in behavior. They’re dexterous, for one. Watch them break dance on their nose, turn a backflip, flick their little tails and get ready to pounce. They’re also more autonomous than their furry cousins. That’s because the plastic is sturdier–these robots can wander around the house and get into all kinds of trouble without falling apart.
So if you want to feel like you’re actually communicating with your pet, go plastic. The technology’s more sophisticated. Some of them will follow you around the house, begging for treats; others will perk up at the sound of your voice. And you can also teach them new tricks.
Just watch where you let them run wild. Mittens isn’t going to survive a drop from the second story of your house. (He might also trip you.)
Furry Buddies: For Cuddling and Nuzzling Against
If you want something to hold close to your chest, then get a puppy, kitty, panda (whatever) with fur. They’re really cute and easy to love, but they don’t move much. Most don’t walk. They usually just lie there, turn their heads, twitch their ears, blink, and maybe slowly bat a paw.
There’s been a boom, recently, in fuzzy robot companions for the elderly, who can’t take care of real pets. These stand-ins do everything they can to recreate the physical feel of a pet; they might mimic the vibrations of a purr, for example, which alleviates stress, or the soft thump of a heartbeat.
Long story short, plastic pets offer more fun and laughs, but ones with fur are often sweeter, softer, and more therapeutic.
How Do You Want to Interact with Your Pet? Look at the Sensors
Communication is a two-way thing. It’s kind of depressing when you come home and talk about all the horrible stuff you went through, and your robot pet just sits there, smiling blankly at nothing. Do yourself a favor, and look at the sensors.
Touch Sensors: Does She Nuzzle Back When You Pet Her?
A lot of these robots have touch sensors located throughout their bodies. Scratch behind the ears, for example, and a cat may purr. Lay a hand on his back, and a dog will bark or wag his tail. Stroke a cheek, and your pet will nuzzle into it. Lay your nose on hers, and she may give you a kiss. Talk about soothing.
The more sensors a robot has, the more varied its responses get. It’s something to keep in mind if your kid (or you) gets bored of new toys within the space of a few hours.
Sound Sensors: Can He Respond to Commands?
If you want Fido to roll over when you tell him to roll over, make sure he has sound sensors. But let’s say you aren’t ready to dish out big cash for speech recognition. Even robots with less sophisticated sound sensors can bark when you call their names, or turn their faces to you when you’re speaking.
Vision Sensors or Camera: Can She See Your Face and Walk Around?
Then, you’ve got robots that can “see” their environment. Some have got cameras that help them navigate your house, dodging walls and table legs. And if you want to feel really close to your pet, see if it’s got facial recognition. Because what can make a heart melt more than a tiny little robot pet looking up at you and calling your name?
Do You Want Your Pet to Grow with You? Now We’re Talking AI
We’ve already dipped briefly into AI land, with all this talk of facial and speech recognition. Basically, if you want to actually train your pet, you’re going to need something with AI (artificial intelligence). An AI pup, for example, can learn its own name and come scampering over when you call it. If you want to feel like you’re raising an honest-to-goodness pet, then you have to invest in the technology.
Some AI pets even grow over time–personality-wise, that is. They might come up with new games to play, or take on new behavior. And if your pet’s constantly changing, then (as cruel as this sounds) you won’t grow tired of it as quickly.
Only thing is, smarter pets tend to update through apps. So you do have to go through the trouble of downloading the software onto your phone or computer, then syncing.
How Real Do You Want Your Pet to Get? Extra Features
Some pets come with add-ons, like extra materials for games, a ball to play fetch, or a leash so you can take them on walks. You might also get some little robot treats for extra bonding time. If you’re looking to enjoy a wide range of activities for your pet, keep an eye out for these.
And though adults want robot pets because there’s no cleanup involved, for some reason, kids love pooping pups. (Bonus if it can fart.) Just letting you know that’s also an option.
It’s Heartbreaking if Your Pet Just Shuts Down: Check Battery Type and Life
Whiskers is batting the ball around one second, and the next, she just keels over. Heartbreaking. So, before you buy any robot pet, make sure you know how it’s powered. We like rechargeable batteries because a) you don’t need to keep buying new ones, saving you money in the long run and b) you can recharge your pet before they completely run out of juice and just… stop.
Also check out how long battery life is (make sure it’s longer than your kid’s attention span) and if there’s any kind of indicator of how much power is remaining. An automated sleep mode will also keep your pet running for longer. Kids (and adults) can get pretty attached to these things, so it’s best to make sure there’s no nasty surprises.
Top 10 Best Robot Pets to Buy Online
So we’ve talked about how you can check how smart, how dexterous, or how cute a robot pet is. Now it’s time to introduce ten little ones that managed to melt our hearts.
10. WEofferwhatYOUwant Electronic Pet Dog Interactive Puppy Harry
A Singing Dog That Can Stand up to a Beating
Harry’s not at the cutting edge of technology, but if you’re looking for a toy that can be batted around by a baby, he’s your dog. He’s got a few pre-set responses; they differ depending on where on his body you touch. He sings and plays tag.
And that’s about it (so Harry is not the best present for older kids). And here’s a warning to parents: Harry’s slightly too big for little hands to pick up, so most kids’ll grab the tail. When that happens, Harry yelps and says something along the lines of “Ouch, that hurts!” Babies love that and so pull on the tail again and again (prompting Harry to complain again and again). Parents, do you really have the patience to listen to that day in and day out?
9. Anki Cozmo
Has Victory Dances, Pouts, and Gets Saucy: Your Smart, Emotional Companion
Okay, so we know he’s not the most furry, or cuddly, or even animal-looking robot around, but we couldn’t leave out Cozmo–he’s just so smart and peppy and so, so cute! First off, he plays games with you (they’re actually challenging and keep big old adults entertained too!) and does a victory dance when he wins. When you win, he pouts. He’s tiny but has got his own big personality. And did we mention he can also recognize your face, look up, and say your name in his cute little voice?
To interact with Cozmo, you need to have his app running on your phone; that’s how you communicate with him, not through voice commands, unfortunately. But the good news is, the app’s updated frequently, so he’s always coming up with new games and hungry to learn more.
8. FurReal Friends Pax, My Poopin’ Pup
It Poops and Makes Funny Noises and Makes Everyone Laugh
We don’t know why, but when robots poop, kids get all excited. This pup comes with a bag of treats; you feed the treats to it, take it for a walk, push on its leash to make it sit down, and watch what went in a few minutes ago come out the other end. Pax’ll eat anything, so watch what your kids feed it, because things can get stuck in there. Also, if you lose his original bag of treats, they’re gone forever–no replacements available.
Pax also barks and makes all sorts of cute noises. But, of course, it wasn’t designed to appeal to anyone over the age of eight (though the occasional parent does giggle over the poopin’ pup).
7. FurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin’ Dragon
Breathes out Steam and Roasts Its Marshmallow
We had to introduce you to at least one magical creature, right? And this dragon breathes water vapor (which is, admittedly, not as cool as fire, but also not as dangerous). Torch also comes with a marshmallow that turns brown when sprayed with the vapor.
It makes a lot of cute sounds–the description says 50, but they kind of blend together. The only thing is, its head and ears are the only things that move, and its only sensors are in its nose and the charm on its chest. If your kid (or you) has got a great imagination, Torch will prove to be good fodder for a make-believe adventure; otherwise, your kid will get bored of it pretty quickly. It does make for some adorable interior decoration, though.
6. Hi-Tech Wireless Remote Control Robot Interactive Puppy Dog
Teaches Your Kids the ABCs and Potty Humor at the Same Time
You communicate with this pup via remote control. You can zoom it around the house like a RC car, have it dance, or–your toddler is going to love this–make it fart. It can sing the ABCs (while its eyes flash the letters of the alphabet) and Michael Jackson (amusing for mom and dad). It’ll also teach your kid how to count.
You can probably tell already, but this dog is nowhere like the real thing. It speaks, for one. There’s no panting or barking, and you can’t teach it tricks. If you ignore it, it’ll actually complain and say, “Why won’t you play with me?” Your kids’ll find the dog hilarious, but you might want to throw it out the window.
5. WowWee CHiP Robot Toy Dog
Teach Him New Things, Because He’s The Smartest Dog on the Block
CHiP is a smart boy. You can teach him tricks. He comes with a wristband, which helps ChiP recognize his master. He’ll follow you around, play fetch, and complain when he’s hungry. He’s got these adorable little emotions; he’ll express joy, for example, when you turn on his Smart Ball, or get sleepy when his batteries are low. He then toddles to his Smart Bed (a.k.a. charging station).
In theory. So, the thing about CHiP is, he’s got so much technology packed into him, he doesn’t always run smoothly. He can’t find his bed sometimes, for example, and–though he’s supposed to be able to avoid obstacles–is one clumsy dog. (He trips and crashes into things.) Voice recognition works better with lower voices; CHiP apparently doesn’t like little kid chipmunk voices.
4. Zoomer Kitty, Interactive Cat
This Kitty Nuzzles Back and–Get This–Breakdances
It wiggles its little tail and pounces on the ball (when the ball is like 6 inches away, which is the limit of the face sensor). It does interesting breakdances on its face and hind legs. It’s got a cuddle mode, where it nuzzles back into your hands and meow-meow-meows its love for you. Get on hits bad side, and it’ll also hiss.
But the Zoomer Kitty is also fragile–just look at those thin joints–so do not hand her over to a kid who likes roughhousing. It’s also a very lazy kitty; charges last an average of half an hour, then you have to plug it back in.
3. Joy For All Silver Cat with White Mitts
Purrs and Vibrates and Heals You Like a Real Cat
Any cat lover’ll proudly tell you–kitties purr at frequencies the promote bone and muscle growth. While science doesn’t know if we can heal our wounds by purring like Margaret Atwood’s Crakers, we do know that listening to kitties purr has a therapeutic effect and lowers stress. And this doll from Joy For All mimics all of that–the sound and the vibrations. (Not to mention it meows, blinks, and rolls backwards for tummy rubs.) It whirs a bit when it moves, but it’s pretty realistic all around.
The cat was made to help elders struggling with loneliness; it’s got no fancy AI behind its (literally) randomized movements. Younger skeptics may prefer a new gaming system or robot to kill time, and while kids may love it, Mittens is a bit fragile, so no roughhousing.
2. Joy For All Companion Pet Golden Pup
Turns Its Face to You When You Call and Makes Your Heart Melt
Joy For All’s pup is a little more affectionate than the kitten. It’s programmed to look at you and bark back when you call out to it. It wags its tail when you hold it and speak to it–and when you leave it alone, it goes to sleep (letting out the occasional snore). It doesn’t walk, though, so you can’t string it behind you on a leash.
Again, it’s meant to be a companion for the elderly and lonely. But younger adults trapped in no-pets apartments have found its heartbeat–which you can feel through its back–soothing. Only thing is, even though it’s so cute, it’s a bit stiff; you can hear and feel the metal skeleton working beneath the fur. It’s not the best for all-out cuddling and snuggling.
1.ROBOTIS PLAY 600 PETs Kit
Build a Bunch of Different Pets and Make Them Walk with a Remote Control
We know kids; they get bored so quickly. So why not get them a robot they can disassemble and form into 7 different pets (one of which is, interestingly enough, our favorite animal: the noble tank)? You can also download a 3D design app, so your kids can create digital models before actually putting piece to piece. You make the animals walk with a controller.
Most of the fun, however, comes with the building. The animals themselves, when they come out, are silent, emotionless, and not cuddly at all. (The polar bear, by the way, kind of looks like a deformed seal.) You can’t actually program them to do anything. But because the kit is so simple, its perfect for younger kids, and the animals do look adorable toddling around.
So, how about it? Find anything that positively melted your heart? (We’re leaning towards the tank.) The pups, the kittens, and the dragons we have lined up here all have different personalities and different purposes. They can cuddle up to the lonely, amuse the easily distracted, or–if worst comes to worst–grace your living room as another piece of interior decoration.
So, now you’ve just got to decide on a name.
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