Can AI Robots Take Care of Your Cat? 

Cat Royale is a project led by Computer Scientists from the University of Nottingham and artists at Blast Theory.

Cat Royale is a project led by Computer Scientists from the University of Nottingham and artists at Blast Theory, creating a multi species world where three cats were left with a robot arm for six hours a day within a specially designed space. 

Initially, Cat Royale was established at the World Science Festival in Brisbane, Australia, in 2023, and since then has been spoken about globally. It recently won the prestigious Webby award for its innovative and captivating experience. 

The research paper entitled “Designing Multispecies Worlds for Robots, Cats, and Humans,” had positive feedback during the annual Computer-Human Conference (CHI’24) and won the best paper award. 

This paper emphasizes that the development of a technology that can take care of cats, such as arm robots, focusing only on the design and the way it interacts is not enough since it is also highly important to specify the environment where this technology has to operate. 

It also indicates that human intervention in aspects, such as recovery from an accident, animal welfare, and their role as observers of such technology is essential. 

In the Cat Royale project, the robot arm provides activities that make cats happy, like dragging a mouse toy on the floor and raising a feather bird into the air. This robot was trained through AI to learn the cats’ favorite games to personalize their experiences. 

Professor Steve Benford from the University of Nottingham who led the research said: “At first glance, the project is about designing a robot to enrich the lives of a family of cats by playing with them”.   

“Under the surface, however, it explores the question of what it takes to trust a robot to look after our loved ones and potentially ourselves.” 

While working with Blast Theory, the researchers had the chance to learn deeply about the design process of robots and their interactions with cats. They were also involved in developing the robot’s capabilities to get the toys and deployed them in a way that teases the cat. 

The team worked on establishing an environment where cats and robots will be together, ensuring that it is a safe one for the feline friends to see robots. They also integrated some features to the robot to help in spotting approaching cats.  

Despite being a major advancement for animals in the absence of their owners, designing a robot to look after cats is not enough since it does not have the human capabilities to address unprecedented incidents, mostly health related ones. Therefore, human intervention remains crucial. 

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