Pets add tremendous joy to our lives. They can also protect against heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, decrease feelings of loneliness and extend our lives. Of course, pets are also an investment of time and money. Regular feedings, grooming, and ongoing vet-trips are just as much a part of pet ownership as snuggles and lap time. There are more than 218 million pets living in the U.S. today. For many of us, the benefit of sharing our lives with furry friends is worth the investment.
But not all of us are able to have pets. People who suffer severe allergies or live in pet-free care facilities are unable to reap the benefits of pet ownership. That is, until the arrival of virtual pets.
Virtual pets are furry friends available for “adoption” digitally from a phone, desktop or tablet. They require no physical care (say goodbye to the doggie bag!), go anywhere their owner (and their device) goes 24 hours a day seven days a week. Virtual pets never rack up expensive vet bills or require boarding.
Care.coach, a company that combines the best of human health care with software, has developed the ultimate virtual pet. Subscribers select a pet avatar that can interact with them in real time. The avatar is controlled by a compassionate, non-clinical human staff member who controls the avatar’s movements. The caregiver responds to the subscriber via a keyboard and their text is converted into digitized speech. From the subscriber’s perspective, the avatar is responding to them in real time.
There are also robotic yet life-like pets available through various companies. These robotic stuffed animals come with motion and light sensors so your furry friend can respond to being petted, held, and hugged. This has tremendous psychological benefits for seniors because of the ability to touch and physically interact with the pet itself. For people living in pet-free environments or people who are simply unable to provide the exercise or bathroom breaks required of actual pets, this is a great option.
Early studies suggest that virtual pets provide similar benefits as living pets to seniors and they require far less maintenance. Virtual pets: pet ownership of the future.