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Research Shows Dogs are a Robot's Best Friend

| 17 Sep 2013 17:57

Suggestions from "social" robots are followed by canines, as if they were from a human.

The study of robotics is always working further towards a fully functioning bipedal skeleton, like that of a human. This has most famously manifested in the form of Honda's Asimo robot, often seen walking up and down stairs and interacting with objects such as tray tables and chairs. It's becoming inevitable that robotic helpers will be a part of our future, whether we like it or not. Now, with new research from the Hungarian Academy of Science in conjunction with Eötvös Loránd University, the future capabilities of these robots may include being able to look after our pets.

The team constructed a robot for the purposes of the experiment, keeping it very basic and built in a form unrelated to that of a human (except for the hands required for the gestures). "The PeopleBot does not resemble a human, but looks rather like a piece of gym equipment with a white gloved hand attached to it," notes Gabriella Lakatos in the press release accompanying the research. 41 dogs were selected for the study and split into two groups. The first half would interact with PeopleBot in "social" mode where the dog's owner would be seen by the canine to talk with the robot and greet it with a handshake, then having PeopleBot respond with pre-recorded audio clips, even referring to the dog by name. Whereas the other half would interact with Peoplebot in an "asocial" mode, seeing the owners interact with PeopleBot via a keyboard and hear audio responses in the form of bleeps.

After meeting PeopleBot in either the "social" or "asocial" setting, the dogs were then given hints by either a human experimenter or the robot as to the location of some hidden food. In many cases each hint was followed successfully, but the majority of failures resided in "asocial" experiments. However, the research looks beyond the dog's appetite. It seems that in the "social" experiments, the dogs were more comfortable around PeopleBot than in the "asocial" setting. "Dogs spent more time staying near the robot experimenter as compared to the human experimenter, with this difference being even more pronounced when the robot behaved socially," notes the press release. "Similarly, dogs spent more time gazing at the head of the robot experimenter when the situation was social."

It's an interesting insight into what roles robots of the future will play in our daily lives. However, for people worried that robots could replace humans entirely, the press release notes that dogs are quite happy to interact with robots only after seeing friendly relations being initiated with it by a human. So dog owners can sleep easy in the knowledge that you're not completely replaceable in the eyes of your pet.

Source: The Independent

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