Dogs are man's best friend, and cats aren't too bad either.
But let's be honest; pets do have some downsides. They smell, have a habit of doing their "business" in annoying places, and are prone to stealing your pillow at night.
Vanguard Industries hopes to address some of the shortcomings of live creatures with a new AI robot pet. Called Moflin, it's fluffy, loving, and can be turned off when required.
We stopped by Vanguard's virtual booth at CES 2021 to see what all the fuss was about.
What Is Moflin?
Moflin, which raised an impressive $600,000 on Kickstarter before finally becoming a reality, looks like a cross between a mouse and a guinea pig.
Vanguard was keen to stress that the pet had emotional capabilities. It will learn to love you back (as long as you're nice to it!) thanks to a unique algorithm that uses built-in sensors to evaluate its surroundings. The sensors include gyroscopes, touch sensors, and microphones.
All that means it can tell the difference between the many people who interact with it. If your partner treats it like a family member while you shut it in a dark closet, it is going to react more positively to your partner than it does to you.
(Note: We're joking, you should never leave the robot locked in a closet, AI pets have feelings too!)
The AI pet's feelings are expressed through twitches, murmurs, and other "animal" actions that you'd expect to see from trusty Fido or Smudge. In fact, all of the movements and noises are modeled on real animals.
According to Vanguard, Moflin's personality will continue to develop over time, as will the range of emotions it will display. Each AI pet is capable of being anxious, calm, happy, excited, sad, and more.
When it's time for Moflin to sleep (read, recharge), it will take itself to the accompanying "nest," snuggle down, and reboot. While charging is happening, it will even twitch and shift, just like a real pet would do.
Moflin will start shipping in March and will cost $400. Sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that you don't need to buy food and there are no vet bills, making it much cheaper than a regular pet over the course of its lifetime.
Can Moflin Replace Your Dog?
And so to the million-dollar question—is Moflin an adequate replacement for Fido?
As a bonafide dog lover, for me, the answer is no. But make no mistake, as these types of AI pets become more advanced, it's easy to see more and more people who live in small homes or have young kids turning to them as a solution for their animal companionship.