Cats and Robots: Science, Art, or Entertainment?

A project called Cat Royale explores the possibilities of enriching cats' lives by having a robot play with them. It is a collaboration between the art collective Blast Theory and scientists from the University of Nottingham. The original experiment was conducted in Australia last year and is now a traveling exhibit. Three cats, Ghostbuster, Clover, and Pumpkin, spent six hours a day for twelve days in a "cat utopia" built for the experiment that provided beds, food and water, climbing spots, litter boxes, toys, a Kino Gen3 lite robot arm trained on cat videos, and human supervision.

So what happened? Overall, the cats had a blast, but there was a time or two that they outsmarted the robot arm and the researchers had to intervene. The research themes of the project, such as the interaction of artificial intelligence with everyday caregiving tasks, are explored thoroughly in a scientific paper published this month. The shorter, more understandable version of the experiment and its purpose is laid out at Ars Technica. But the real fun comes in as you can watch highlights from the experiment yourself with an entire series of YouTube videos.

(Image credit: Blast Theory/Stephen Daly)


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