Skip to content
Menu

Purrfect Companions: How robotic cats are fighting loneliness

At the BEYOND Expo, vendors like Elephant Robotics are showing novel solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues – even ones we may overlook.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

At the BEYOND Expo, vendors like Elephant Robotics are showing novel solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues – even ones we may overlook.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

UPDATED: 21 Dec 2023, 11:33 pm

Visitors wandering the expo hall inside the Venetian Macao may be startled to hear meowing. 

They may be even more nonplussed when they see a fluffy grey cat perched on a table, staring back with its bright blue eyes and wagging its bushy tail. 

But this is no ordinary house cat – not by a long shot. This one runs on battery power, only perks up when petted and doesn’t require you to feed it, let alone clean its litter box.

These incredibly lifelike cats are produced by Shenzhen-based Elephant Robotics. And they have attracted sizable crowds to the seven-year-old startup’s booth in the consumer tech summit at the BEYOND Expo, the three-day tech event currently taking place in the Venetian Macao.

According to account manager Stacey Gao, the startup largely provides educational robots – gadgets that schools and students can use to learn about industrial robotics – for a fraction of the price. Their educational robots retail for about 4,800 patacas, or US$600. 

But the company has also found viral fame with its robot cats: the MarsCat, a bionic pet that moves, meows and reacts like a real cat, and the MetaCat, a lifelike fluffy feline available in three colours.

These products, Gao says, were built to combat the epidemic of loneliness afflicting so many people around the world. “You pet it, care for it and feel happy,” she says. 

“It’s meant for people who want to have a pet but cannot because they can’t care for a real animal,” she adds. “Some people with real cats also buy them to give their pet a companion. Even if they can’t communicate, the cats still feel excited to see another cat in their house.”  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the target demographic so far has been the elderly.

[See more: 5G has finally launched in Macao. What will it mean for the city?]

“Research has found that this kind of product can help the elderly feel less alone,” says Gao. “That’s why we designed the MetaCat specifically for hugging. Giving it a hug can make you feel at peace.”

The robot cats, which currently retail for about 1,600 patacas (US$200), run for about four to six hours without a recharge – as any cat owner will attest, that’s about as long as cats are active anyway. 

But they’re not the only tool the company is working on to help people at home.

“We’re working on building family robots – robots that can help you around your house,” Gao explains. 

For example, these robots can help organise medicine and schedule times to take pills. That too is intended to help the elderly, especially in countries like Japan, where they often live alone. 

Thanks to companies like Elephant Robotics, living alone might not be such a lonely endeavour anymore.

With reporting by Craig Sauers


Macao News is an official Macao media partner of BEYOND Expo 2023.

 

UPDATED: 21 Dec 2023, 11:33 pm

Send this to a friend