It was 20 years ago that actor Sam Waterston (LAW & ORDER) appeared on Saturday Night Live to endorse Old Glory Insurance and their excellent coverage against robot attacks on seniors. Sure, "Robot Insurance" was just a pipedream a mere two decades ago, but this week news came down that one of my favorite companies - and one that I work with on a weekly basis - has just unveiled a line of "Companion Pets" geared toward seniors... or in more simple terms, ROBOT CATS. Hasbro's JOY FOR ALLCompanion Pets are their first foray into products aimed specifically at the truly oldest older kids, utilizing the animatronic technology that Hasbro has honed with products like their FurReal Friends and Furby lines. These cats "respond to petting, hugging and motion through built-in sensors," and boast "authentic cat sound effects, and soft fur inspired by real felines." Watch the video below to see it in action...
“We heard from seniors across the country that companionship was important to their happiness. Many live alone, miss having a pet, or are no longer able to care for a pet. While it’s not a replacement for a pet, the JOY FOR ALL Companion Pet Cat is a life-like alternative that can provide the joy and companionship of owning a real pet, without the often cumbersome responsibilities. Whether it’s one-on-one time between caregivers and recipients, or multi-generational play with parents, children, and grandchildren, we’re excited to enable families and friends of all ages to connect more deeply through the universal language of play”Ted Fischer, vice president of business development at Hasbro
The official press release that's been making the rounds states that "The brand was inspired by consumer feedback highlighting the appeal of certain Hasbro toys and games for seniors, and the development of Companion Pets was informed by extensive consumer research with older adults and their caregivers nationwide." There's a part of me that wonders if that translates into "Grandma played with a FurReal Friend and thought it was a real cat!"
I totally appreciate wanting to spread joy and love, and to reach new audiences through the joy of play, but after watching the videos on the JOY FOR ALL website, they just make me feel sad. On one hand "it's not a replacement for a pet," but on the other it quite obviously is. The though of some kind-hearted old folks developing an emotional relationship with a robot... a toy... or any other lifeless object just feels wrong. And what happens when the batteries go... or even worse, if the product fails. I'm thinking of Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY when he lost "Wilson" the volleyball.
James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade as Publisher of The Rock Father Magazine, he joined Adventure Publishing Group as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider—a destination for all things pop culture. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 25 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.
He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.