THE DOG CHRONICLE – We’ve mechanized many things, so why not dogs? Although our beloved pets may seem irreplaceable, there are alternatives, according to researchers at the University of Portsmouth who have been studying the value of robotic pets.
Preliminary results, published in Science Digest and The International Journal of Social Robotics, reveal that a robotic animal named ‘MiRo-E,’ is just as, if not more, effective than his furry counterparts in some settings.
Although there’s no doubt that dogs, particularly more social breeds, have exponential value in therapy settings, their service comes with limitations.
That’s where biomimetic robots — robots that mimic animal behaviors — come in, according to Olivia Barber.
The therapy dog owner and first author of the study claims that robo dogs do have certain benefits. Chief among them is sanitation and stamina.
Pet therapy, which is physically and emotionally taxing, can be provided by robotic animals which mirror the movements and behavior of their counterparts.
Although MiRo-E wags its tail to show excitement, turn its ears toward sounds and even displays expressions similar to its contemporaries, it couldn’t beat the real thing among discerning 11- and 12-year-old study participants, who initially preferred the real dog to its robotic counterpart in research sessions.
Their preference changed, however, when they began to attribute ‘MiRo-E’s mood during visits.
The findings are promising to researchers seeking to expand the value of therapeutic dogs in more restrictive settings.
Lead image courtesy of Consequential Robotics