A couple of years ago, I announced to my wife that I wanted to buy a robot dog. She thought I was nuts and threw a fit. "We already have a whole family of animals," she said, "and what about all those homeless dogs and cats out there?"
I should probably mention that my wife is a veterinary technician. What was I thinking?
I'll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking about watching my real animals react to a robot dog. I was thinking of the entertainment value. I guess I'm still a kid at heart. Maybe I should consider growing up sometime, like before I become senile and incontinent. I'll have to work on that.
Speaking of which, I'm currently in a visiting room of a vet hospital with my dog Casey. We've had her for ten years, since she was a puppy. She's awaiting an important surgical procedure. It's unlikely that I could feel the emotional connection to a robot that I feel for Casey, especially at a time like this.
Although I hate to admit it, my wife was right. No wonder Sony put Aibo - its robotic dog - to sleep. Perhaps robot pets are destined to demonstrate and develop the technology and nothing more. So much for that fantasy.
Still, I grew up with The Jetsons and a zillion other sci-fi books, movies and TV shows. I can only assume that I'm not the only one that fantasized about robots. Well, that fantasy is quickly becoming reality.
The potential for robotics to significantly improve our quality of life is huge. In the medical and health services industries alone, robots can provide surgical precision that a human can't hope to achieve and help care for our aging and increasingly overweight population.
In terms of on and off-world exploration and mining, robots can go where people can't.
The employment opportunities can someday dwarf that of the computer industry. Now that's something to fantasize about.
And then there's the application that interests my wife and I'm guessing lots of others - domestic robots. Michael Kanellos of CNET News.com has one of those iRobot vacuums. Besides cleaning the floor, he says the machine's entertaining to watch. I think that says more about Michael than the robot.
I should probably face it; the only robot I'm going to see in my home anytime soon will be a robot maid, like Rosie from The Jetsons. I guess that's as it should be. If I can't have a robot dog, who knows, maybe I can get Rosie to pooper scoop. Who do you think picked up after Astro?