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PETA calls for robot Punxsutawney Phil with AI to predict weather

Animal activists are again calling to retire the famous groundhog for an animatronic version, but PETA asks for an AI feature that can actually forecast weather.
Credit: AP
Groundhog Club co-handler Al Dereume, left, places Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, in his carrying capsule, during the 133rd celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast an early spring. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

While it's not the first time PETA has called for the retirement of the famous weather predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, the animal rights advocacy organization is also suggesting that artificial intelligence (AI) could be used in a robotic or animatronic version of the animal to "actually" predict the weather. 

The president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newkirk, sent a letter to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's president, Bill Deeley, asking him to consider the idea of an animatronic groundhog to replace Punxsutawney Phil. In the letter, Newkirk suggests that usage of artificial intelligence (AI), could actually make the yearly tradition more interesting and "renew interest in Punxsutawney, generating a great deal of buzz, much like Sony's robot dog 'aibo,' which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands."

In the letter, the president of PETA asks Deeley to think about the interests of a new generation writing, "Ignoring the nation's fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day."

TEGNA has reached out to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. 

Read the full letter from PETA to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club:

January 28, 2020 

Bill Deeley, President 

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club 

Dear Mr. Deeley, 

Times change. Traditions evolve. It's long overdue for Phil to be retired. 

As a prey species, groundhogs actively avoid humans. Being in close proximity to the public causes these animals great stress. When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what's happening. Being relegated to a library "habitat" for the other days of the year doesn't allow him or the other groundhog there to dig, burrow, or forage. It's no kind of life for these animals. 

Using technologically advanced electromechanical devices such as animatronics instead of live animals is more popular than ever. We even have the technology to create an animatronic groundhog with artificial intelligence (AI) that could actually predict the weather. An AI Phil would renew interest in Punxsutawney, generating a great deal of buzz, much like Sony's robot dog "aibo," which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands. By creating an AI Phil, you could keep Punxsutawney at the center of Groundhog Day but in a much more progressive way. Talk about taking your town's annual tradition in a fresh and innovative direction! 

Today's young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn't even worthy of a text message. This is a generation whose members book rides on their smart phones and will never walk into a bank to deposit a check. Ignoring the nation's fast-changing demographics might well prove the end of Groundhog Day. 

We'd be happy to make recommendations for a sanctuary that would welcome Phil and the other Punxsutawney groundhog. Instead of working at cross-purposes, let's collaborate to create a sunny future. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours truly, 

Ingrid Newkirk, 

President PETA

RELATED: Groundhog Club digs in on using Punxsutawney Phil for Groundhog Day tradition