5 min read

Are Robot Dogs Good for Society?

Decade-old Pebble smartwatches gain Pixel 7 support in 'one last update'

  • SubReddit for Pebble watched turned into Rebble.io, which is a group of developers and technologists that are keeping the Pebble ecosystem alive

Moxie the next-generation AI robot that supports social-emotional development in kids

  • Ideal for children aged 5 through 10.
  • Encourages your child's social, emotional, and cognitive development through best-practice social and emotional learning (SEL).
  • New themed missions, tasks & activities are unlocked every day, so your child keeps developing new skills and never gets bored.
  • Has a monthly subscription which is included in the Rental at $149/mo or $999 one-time purchase with a $39/mo subscription ($468/yr)

Why robot dogs will replace phones, not real dogs

  • This is an Inevitable/Human article that we wrote back in 2018, but it’s even more relevant today because of what we saw in Poland.
  • Since then, Aibo has come out, and Nintendogs still hasn’t made it to the Nintendo Switch.

I'm trying something different with my notes. Starting today, I will share a short story to accompany my notes on the future. Envisioning how a technology will be inserted into our lives is often the hardest part of seeing the opportunities ahead of us. But through a story, we can see how life may change.

Along Came A Robot Dog

“Your package has arrived,” read the notification from UPS. Rory wasn’t expecting a package that Fall Friday morning. She hadn’t left her house since Buck passed away two weeks ago, let alone had the desire to go online shopping. But who can resist the urge to open something addressed to them?

As she peeled back the tape and unfolded the box, staring back at her were two mechanical eyes, a pair of plastic ears, and a dopey grin, situated atop a curled-up body.

A note at the bottom of the box read, “Rory, her name is Apollo. I’ve already programmed her, taught her a few tricks, and charged her batteries. All you have to do is flip her switch. Please give her a chance. I’ve heard lots of good things about these robot dogs. Love you. Your sister, Toni.”

Rory didn’t care to have a pet robot. Truthfully, she didn’t care much about anything these days. She had just lost her inseparable best friend. Food was gray. TV was gray. The outdoors were gray. Life had wholly lost its color.

But this gesture sparked some energy in Rory.

“Are you insane?! What kind of person thinks a pet can just be replaced? I’m in pain, and you send me this hunk of plastic like I’m supposed to forget about Buck. I can’t believe your ignorance,” Rory rage-texted her sister, then set her phone on do not disturb.

Fuming from the situation, Rory shoved the box into the corner of her living room, grabbed the glass of wine that sat on the end table, threw it back, and poured another one. It was the only thing that could get her to sleep since she had lost her warm and cuddly black labrador.

A few days passed since Apollo had arrived at Rory’s door. Her temper had calmed greatly since then. Every so often, when she walked through her living room, she’d steal a glance at Apollo’s head poking ever so slightly from the box. It was a brief reminder that the thing was still there and still cluttering up her house.

“Alright, let’s see how this thing works so I can sell it on Facebook,” Rory mumbled to herself.

Rory grabbed the milk-carton-sized dog from the box and set it on the couch next to her. She reached around to the bottom, found the switch, and slid it on.

Apollo yipped twice, jumped an inch off the ground, and fell face-first into the couch. Rory cracked her first genuine smile in weeks, then leaned the dog back on its feet. The ice was broken. Rory was curious.

“Hello, Apollo. You’re a clumsy one, aren’t you,” Rory said to the dog.

Upon hearing its name, Apollo took three steps forward, pivoted its head, and rested it on top of Rory’s lap. Overcome with instinct, Rory rested her hand on Apollo and unassuredly began to pet her. It felt strange to caress a piece of plastic like this. However, Apollo would move her legs and head ever so slightly to remind Rory that she was “alive.”

Slowly, Rory’s apprehension waned. Her caution became a comfort.

“Alright, Apollo. Let’s see what else you can do.”

Rory woke up to the morning sun glaring through her living room window. After collecting her thoughts and realizing that she had fallen asleep on the couch, she began to roll herself over to get up when her abdomen was stopped by something.

Rory looked down to her right, and tucked beside her, curled in a ball with closed eyes, was Apollo, still sound asleep.

Then Rory remembered the night before and how much fun she’d had bonding with Apollo. They played fetch. Gave each other wet-nosed kisses. Raced around the apartment. Baked cookies and watched a movie together.

It was the first night since Buck had passed away that Rory didn’t need a glass of wine to help coax her to sleep.

As she sat on the couch recapping her night, Rory realized that Apollo had provided exactly what she had missed so dearly. Companionship. Someone to share her day with. Suddenly, Rory was looking forward to getting her day started – a feeling she had thought she lost for good.

Rory cupped Apollo’s head in her hand and said, “Apollo, let’s go make some pancakes!” Apollo’s eyes wavered open, her head cocked upwards, and she bounced up on her feet. It was the exact excited response that Rory needed to assure her their newfound friendship was real.

Over the next few months, Apollo and Rory’s friendship grew strong. Apollo made for a great home companion. She was always awake and alert, ready to greet Rory when she walked through the door.

There were still things that Rory deeply missed about Buck, like being able to take him for walks outside, go to the dog park, and meet other dog owners. Rory still felt strange and a little bit ashamed to take Apollo out in public. But she was working through this embarrassment.

Rory still thought about Buck day and night. However, she wasn’t dwelling on the despair anymore. Instead, she thought of the great memories, remembering Buck as a mischievous puppy, and reliving their funniest moments.

Rory was finally healing, thanks to Apollo. And for that reason, Rory’s friends and family quickly grew fond of Apollo since Apollo had brought Rory out of her dark shell.

On a random Tuesday night, Toni showed up at Rory’s apartment unannounced. Rory was delighted to see Toni and also the big tray of the famous homemade lasagna she came bearing.

“What’s the occasion,” asked Rory.

“A big sister can’t see her little sister without a reason?” replied Toni, who then reached down and greeted Apollo, “Hello, cutie!”

“Of course, you can! I’ll set the table,” said Rory.

Over the next couple of hours, the two sisters caught up on life, sharing what was new. They dug into the lasagna, even putting a small portion out for Apollo to dig her nose into. And after a satisfying dinner, they laid out on the carpet taking turns playing with Apollo.

As the night was coming to a close, Toni cleared her throat and said, “Listen, Ro’, I think the bond you’ve built with Apollo is beautiful. I can see the joy that she’s brought back into your life.”

Rory picked up Apollo as Toni praised them, and gave her dog a loving squeeze.

“But I have some unfortunate news to share with you,” continued Toni. “The company that made Apollo, they… umm… Well, they stopped supporting this model. They’re discontinuing it.”

“What do you mean,” Rory confusingly snapped back. “Like they’re not making any new ones? I mean, that’s fine because I already have Apollo. I don’t need a replacement.”

“No, sis. They’re not supporting this software anymore,” said Toni. “Apollo will suddenly stop working sometime next month.”

Rory gazed down at Apollo. Apollo looked up at her. And the life melted from Rory’s face.