Synthetic animals, also referred to as synths, are a broad class of artificial creatures built for companionship, work and other purposes typical of their natural counterparts. Examples of such creatures exist in various Frencoverse nations.
Robotic animals have a distinctly mechanical body structure controlled by an inorganic CPU and are seldom designed to pass for their natural counterparts, retaining a distinct robotic appearance. Their functions can vary from pets to guard animals. Notable examples of robotic animals are the two leonine robots Balios and Xanthos, owned by the Chthonian Peley the Mechanomancer, or the robo-rats patrolling the ventilation and utility ducts of the Imperial Spire. Other examples are the mechanical insects known as mechanites, used by nations like Mechanocratic Russia for a wide variety of purposes from agriculture and search-and-rescue, to intelligence gathering and warfare.
Unlike their robotic counterparts, true synthetic animals are usually designed to emulate their organic analogues, their construction being based on synthetic biology rather than robotics, or at least a combination of both. Creatures like these usually closely resemble natural animals, but possess functions and capabilities above and beyond them.
Because their construction closely immitates natural organic biology, they are generally much more self-sufficient than robotic creatures, capable of growth and self-repair through absorbing and converting nutrients rather than requiring replacement parts. Synthetic animals, like AI-controlled robots, can be endowed with a human-like artificial intelligence and the capability for reasoning and speech. Examples of true synthetic animals include a synthetic pigeon/spy drone used (unsuccessfully) by Fyodora Spalko's spy cell to gather intelligence on Sidh delegates during their visit to the Mechanocracy of Russia, and the pair of pet synth-cats kept by the Empress of Sidhae. The latter appear to be at least partly robotic in design, including fully-mechanical parts like concealed extra limbs with blades.
Cyborg animals are natural organic animals that have been subjected to extensive cyber-augmentation to expand and enhance their functionality. While not truly synthetic, they are classed as artificial creatures because of this extensive augmentation. Cyborg animals are usually used for work, combining their natural abilities and animal instincts with enhanced functionality.
Cyber-augmentation of animals usually aims to render otherwise wild and dangerous creatures docile, obedient and responsive to training, allowing their masters to harness the abilities of creatures otherwise difficult or impossible to tame and train. They also serve as a cheap alternative to true synthetics, as creating a machine intellect with efficient natural instincts has otherwise proven challenging to even the most advanced factions and species of the Frencoverse.
Cyborg animals are usually working beasts, not kept around for good company. Examples of cyborg animals include the cyber-eagles and cyb-hounds occasionally seen in the Imperium of Sidhae. The Order of the Trinity is also well known for using cyborg mutants as well as cybs for battle and guard duty, but some higher ranking Trinity Knights keep cyb-mutants for companionship. An example of the latter is the cyb-manticore kept by the Cardinal of Terror.
Since the technologies necessary to build synthetic animals can be further expanded to create artificial sapients as well, the nations of the Frencoverse have adopted various regulations to prevent abuses of such technology.
The Imperium of Sidhae, for example, maintains an express ban on producing fully-artificial sapients in human/Sidh form. Sidh law also requires that any sapient artificial creature must have an organic brain or a comparable synthetic equivalent rather than a CPU, or in the very least must have once had one before transitioning to fully-artificial. This law has been adopted as a precaution against AI rebellion, arguing that an intellect based in inorganic circuitry may very well have different needs, wants and motivations that might very well conflict with those of organic beings. Consequently, most advanced Sidh AIs are the digitalized minds of once-living Sidhae, although a number of entirely artificial sapient AIs have also been created by the Imperium, their creators skirting the legal restrictions through various means. While it is illegal to provide sapient AIs with artificial bodies visually identical to human/Sidh form, however, it is still legal to house them in an obviously-artificial or animal body, or a vehicle. A prominent example of the latter are the AIs of some Sidh capital ships, their memories and personalities belonging to former commanders of these vessels, who have agreed to be transitioned to AI after sustaining life-threatening injuries.
The Mechanocracy of Russia does not share the same restrictions against AI, though machine intellects here prefer to retain the bodies into which they were built. This includes those bodies built for artificiality, as opposed to attempting to pass for human. If their body somehow ceases to operate, the synth will usually request a copy of their original; one exception is Elena Trotskaya's robotic servant Stepan, destroyed by Alain and reinstalled into the remains of Pandemonium's own robot servant, Kommersant.
In the Maincanon, there was an attempt by New Frenco Empire delegates during the 2104 Sofia conference to pass Article 29: On Killer Robots. The hugely controversial legislation, had it passed, would have barred synths from serving in worldwide militaries, on the basis that they could not be controlled by humans and thus it was impossible to guarantee the prevention of human rights atrocities. The Mekhs responded by sending Reasoning Machines, at whom the legislation was directly aimed, to compose the majority of their delegation: only two humans were present. After a wave of impassioned speeches to defend machine rights and a threat to press for sanctions over the brutal colonisation of Mars by the NFE and Luna (which initially supported Article 29), the motion was thrown out. This attempt at using international law as a weapon against an entire artificial species is often raised by the Popular Front, the ultranationalist wing of Mekh politics, as a reason for the country to snub international law altogether.