Using robot pets instead of companion animals for older people: A case of 'reinventing the wheel'?

Simon Coghlan, Jenny Waycott, Barbara Barbosa Neves, Frank Vetere

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOtherpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Robot pets are being developed and deployed to provide companionship for older adults. While robot pets offer some therapeutic benefits, their intended use for 'companionship' often provokes ethical debate, including concern that interactions with robot pets are demeaning or lack value compared to other social interactions. Another concern is that robot pets provide no real advantages over companion animals. This conceptual paper draws on philosophy, human-animal bond research, and technology development in robotics, to consider whether robot pets provide new opportunities for companionship as opposed to just 'reinventing the wheel'. We argue that robot pets may sometimes be as beneficial as companion animals or offer something different and distinctive. The paper provides a foundation for further multidisciplinary research to advance understanding of the ethical issues and the opportunities and challenges that arise in our ongoing and changing relationships with new technologies such as robot pets.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference, OzCHI 2018
EditorsAnn Morrison, George Buchanan, Jenny Waycott, Mark Billinghurst, Duncan Stevenson, J.H.-J. Choi, Mark Billinghurst, Ryan Kelly, Dana McKay, Artur Lugmayr
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781450361880
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventAustralian Computer Human Interaction Conference 2018 - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 4 Dec 20187 Dec 2018
Conference number: 30th (Proceedings)

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


ConferenceAustralian Computer Human Interaction Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleOZCHI 2018
Internet address


  • Ageing
  • Companionship
  • Ethics
  • Older adults
  • Pets
  • Robots

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