Robo Dogs: As Good as the Real Thing?


Man’s best friend may someday run on AA batteries instead of kibble.

A study conducted by Saint Louis University found that a nine-year-old dog named Sparky and a robotic dog were almost equally effective at helping to alleviate loneliness in elderly nursing home patients.

In the study, one group had weekly 30-minute interactions with Sparky and another group had visits with the robot dog for the same length of time. At the conclusion of the eight-week study, both of the groups were less lonely.

It took about a week for people to warm up to the robot dog, according to the study. Once they got used to the robo-dog, they began to pet and talk to the dog.

The author of the study, Dr. William Banks, said the research shows that someday robots could substitute for living dogs in helping people.

One criticism of the study, however, is that an assumption is made that the robot dog reduced loneliness, when in fact it could have been the human who brought the dog into the room that played a part in easing feelings of loneliness.

Source: Associated Press

K9 Commentary:

It’s always interesting to hear and read about studies comparing robo-anything to humans or animals. While I’m sure there’s some benefit to having robo-dogs be companions for the elderly (no messes for them to clean up, no need to walk the dogs), the need for a lasting bond can only really, truly be met with the live K9 version. In a time when shelter overcrowding is at an all-time high, having robot dogs replace living dogs in ANY capacity doesn’t seem like such a great idea.

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