A very different type of research article has been published in the journal Animal Cognition. This study found that dogs react sociably to robots that behave socially towards them, even if the devices look nothing like a human.
What? Yes – that’s right. A research team led by Gabriella Lakatos of the Hungarian Academy of Science and Eötvös Loránd University tested the reactions of 41 dogs with a PeopleBot robot. The robot had two arms and four-fingered hands, resembling a piece of gym equipment with a white gloved hand attached to it.
One set of dogs in the ‘asocial group’ first observed an interaction between two humans (the owner and the human experimenter) and then observed an ‘asocial’ interaction between the owner and the robot. Another set of dogs watched an interaction between the owner and the human experimenter followed by observing a ‘social’ interaction between the owner and the robot.
These interactions were followed by sessions in which either the human experimenter or the robot pointed out the location of hidden food.
The dogs spent more time near the robot or gazing at its head when the PeopleBot behaved socially.
“Roboticists who design interactive robots should look into the sociality and behavior of their designs, even if they do not embody human-like characteristics,” Lakatos advises.
Source: Springer media release