In a bizarre finding, scientists have discovered that dogs could help fine-tune future designs of social robots, a new study has found.
The study led by Gabriella Lakatos of the Hungarian Academy of Science and Eotvos Lorand University found that dogs, that are considered as the man’s best friend, react sociably to robots that behave socially towards them, even if the devices look nothing like a human.
To study this animal behavior, the scientists carried study on 41 dogs and tested their reaction. They were divided into two groups depending on the nature of human-robot interaction: ‘asocial’ or ‘social’.
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. The remaining dogs in this group participated in these interactions in the reverse order.
In the ‘social group,’ one 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. The remaining dogs in this group also participated in these interactions in the reverse order.
These interactions were followed by sessions in which either the human experimenter or the robot pointed out the location of hidden food in both the ‘asocial’ and the ‘social’ groups.
A customized human-sized PeopleBot with two arms and four-fingered hands were used. One of its robotic arms makes simple gestures and grasps objects. It was programmed to either perform socially enriched human-like conduct (such as calling a dog by its name) or to behave rather machine-like and in an asocial manner.
The researchers recorded definite positive social interactions between the animals and the robot.
The researchers believe that the dogs’ previous experience with the robot, while watching their owners interact with the PeopleBot, may have also influenced their attitude towards it when they confronted it during the pointing phase.
The study was published in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition.