Because not many people have played with them, most people's opinion about robot pets is along the lines of "oh, what a sad thing, imagine trying to play with a robot dog instead of a real one". The robot dogs and cats and... other things... are a very long way indeed from being self-aware. Really, they're not even on the road to consciousness, any more than aeroplanes are on the way to being birds.
But robot pets, so far, are not meant to be substitutes for real pets in the general sense. Nobody, including the manufacturers, is pretending that they are. What they are, are interesting toys in the shape of an animal. Which is what leads to all of the emotional confusion.
Here are some cheap and interactive robotic pets. Since their creation in 1998, the Furbies have been instant success with every kid, and even the parents love them.
Kota the Triceratops, Playskool
Annoying / Scary
Behold , the Hummer of robot pets. Standing about 2 feet high and more than 3 feet long, this plush dinosaur is likely to be bigger than most of the kids who play with it. It's also likely to scare the bejesus out of them. Kota emits loud bellows as he swivels around a giant head and blinks his fist-sized eyes. He's even got built-in microphones, so he can respond to ambient sounds—which makes it easy to imagine a tit-for-tat of terrified screams and interactive dino-roars. That's too bad, because Kota is also programmed to respond to gentle strokes of his chin, head, and torso. Those brave enough to climb onto his back are rewarded with jungle adventure music and the sound of stomping triceratops feet. But Kota doesn't go anywhere.