At least 10,000 years ago, ancient humans and wild wolves began a partnership. Some scientists think wolves hung out near humans to eat food scraps, then became tame over time; others believe that humans tamed the wolves to be hunting companions. However it happened, dogs were the first domesticated animals.
Humans have had pets for thousands of years, and we’ll likely continue to cuddle them for thousands more. But what will our furry friends of the future look like? Read on to find out what experts think might be possible.
Cuddling with a furry friend—awesome. Scooping poop—not so much. But in the future, pets might be mess-free. Engineers are designing robots that will move like real animals, chasing a ball or jumping in your lap.
For instance, Tombot is a puppy-like bot that wags its tail, barks on command, and leans in for an ear scratch. Like other robotic pets, Tombot has been able to help with depression and stress in patients who struggle with memory loss. That’s just like real pets—but without the rainy walks or messy cleanup.
Would you want a dog with a solid coat? A spotted one? What about a coat that glows? Since 2003, genetically engineered aquarium fish called GloFish have been for sale in pet stores. Scientists inserted DNA from naturally fluorescent jellyfish into the fish’s DNA, creating critters that light up in fluorescent rainbow colors.
In 2009, scientists used the same technique to create the world’s first glowing dogs: four beagle puppies that shine red under ultraviolet light. The procedure was for scientific research to help cure disease, but someday the technology could be used to create light-up pets. Not everyone thinks that changing a pet’s DNA just to make them cuter is a good idea, though, and might even be considered cruel. So will our furry friends one day glow? Only the future will tell.
How do you know if your pet is bored all day while its pet parents are at work and school? In the future, owners will turn to technology to keep their pets happy and entertained when they’re home alone. Right now, a device called iCPooch lets people check in with their dogs—and even video chat with them. Another, called Kittyo, allows owners who are away to touch a finger to their phone screen and move a laser dot around a room for their cat to chase.
Ever wondered what your dog was thinking? Soon you might know for sure. At North Carolina State University, researchers are developing a device that will help humans connect to their canines. A dog wears this “smart harness,” which has sensors that monitor the pooch’s heart rate and other body responses. In the future, it could send owners a text message to let them know when their pet is stressed or relaxed.
Lots of people keep backyard chickens. Someday they could keep backyard dinosaurs! That might sound far-fetched, but birds are actually dinosaurs: They’re descended from the same dino group that included Velociraptor and T. rex. Now, paleontologist Jack Horner is trying to genetically tweak chickens to give them characteristics of their Jurassic ancestors, including clawed arms, teeth, and long tails.
Excerpted from Nat Geo Kids’ Ultimate Book of the Future by Stephanie Warren Drimmer