Table 2

Examples of evidence from each group during focus group discussions

ThemeExample evidence
Older peopleRoboticists
Interactivity ‘If you’re sat there on your own, you want some reaction’. (OP6)
 ‘That one (Joy for All cat) is almost perfect, but perhaps if you could say, do you want to play, and then it could then do something, a little bit more interactive’. (OP13)
 ‘I think something passive, that doesn’t make a lot of sounds, it could be stressful, too much (sic) You could have a sack that’s warm and purrs’. (R3)
 ‘I think it should have high level interaction, because it would keep the interaction longer as well, if you just have a pet like this with one or two features, it’s done, it’s limited’. (R9)
Soft fur ‘Day to day cleaning, you could wipe over it (Pleo), furry thing would be harder’. (OP5)
 ‘Fur I think so. The plastic I found very cold, not something you would, sorta, cuddle’. (OP13)
 ‘I don’t think so, because it isn’t cleanable, if you wanted something to cuddle you could just buy a stuffed toy’. (R14)
 ‘Nice and furry, you could kinda cuddle it’. (R18)
Talking ‘(animals) don’t talk, there are sounds that creatures make’. (OP6)
 ‘For older people living on their own in particular, we all talk to ourselves anyway, you don’t feel so stupid if you talk to something that responds to you’. (OP13)
 ‘from a technological point of view, speech should be left out of the equation, especially with elderly people, and people with dementia, they wouldn’t have expressions or fully structured sentences which would get frustrating if the robot didn’t understand’. (R1)
 ‘I can see the appeal, (sic) a rudimentary conversation might be quite nice, as long as you didn’t feel like a twit doing it’. (R11)
Personalisation ‘If it was knitted, it wouldn’t be able to move its eyes and mouth’. (OP5)
 ‘It’s quite a good idea, yeah I do, someone who’s got a particular animal’ ‘We were talking about colours, I like that one, she’s always had black cats, It would be nice to have a choice of different colours’. (OP13)
 ‘That might ruin the illusion I’d say’ ‘if you’ve eaten like a chicken, if you’ve seen the actual process, you would not feel so good about it (sic), when you see the finished product without knowing how, it’s sometimes better’. (R2)
 ‘It would be amazing, it would give it a personal touch, it’s like having a new (smartphone) and getting a new cover, people love that’. (R10)
Realistic ‘For someone who’s always had animals, they feel that loss, so for them, something realistic that they could interact with’. (OP1)
 ‘as long as it’s got big eyes and attractive I don’t mind’. (OP17)
 ‘It would make more sense’. (R1)
 ‘No (sic) if it’s not realistic, you wouldn’t be hoping it would be a real dog so’. (R16)
Familiarity ‘because they (cat and dog) are more domesticated animals, whereas a seal you wouldn’t have a seal in your home’. (OP1)
 ‘I think if you’d had a cat or a dog, it would be better to have something you could relate to’. (OP12)
 ‘for the elderly it should be something familiar’. (R2)
 ‘I think because of uncanny valley it doesn’t have to be something that we are used too’. (R7)
Mythical ‘That’s a generation thing, kids would love it but not here’. (OP1)
 ‘Maybe in 5 years time…’. (OP16)
 ‘I also think something super unrealistic like the Furby would be creepy as well, it’s so bizarre you could be turned off by it, it’s weird, a baby seal, you’re not accustomed to the animal so whatever it does is just cute’. (R8)
 ‘The mythical Furby looks right because you’ve got no expectations, so you cannot do it wrong, you cannot break expectations’. (R13)
Life simulation ‘Warmth under belly to keep your knees warms!’ (OP1)
 ‘If it was breathing, it would be almost a real cat, and again, it’s a soothing thing’. (OP14)
 ‘I can feel on the dinosaur, coming from an engineering point of view, with all that inside and trouble circulating the air, you can feel it gets warm, but I think that’s actually a good thing, that you can feel, it’s even more, like lizard like, even more appearing like something’. (R6)
 ‘The problem is I think it has to be done well, and it’s really difficult to do well, it could end up creepy and weird’. (R14)