Robot or real: No difference in dogs

Robot or real: No difference in dogs

Apr 02, 2008
By staff

A visit by a friendly dog can help brighten a nursing home resident's day. Now a new study shows it may not matter whether the dog is flesh-and-blood or plastic-and-battery.

Researchers at Saint Louis University's School of Medicine in St. Louis tested to see whether visits by a canine—either the medium-sized gentle mutt Sparky or a Sony Aibo robotic dog—helped to curb loneliness. Both did—and in nearly equal amounts.

Researchers separated 38 nursing home residents into three groups. One saw Sparky for 30 minutes each day in their rooms, another group saw the Aibo for the same amount of time, and a third group didn't have visits from either. Those who spent time with Sparky or the Aibo both reported nearly equal levels of attachment to the animal or robot as well as decreased loneliness.

Possibilities are enormous for robotic assistance for the elderly, says William Banks, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University. A health companion in a home or rest home could follow residents, giving them reminders on when to take medication and sending an alert if they fall.

"A person could get tired of a robot following him around. But if you could change that inanimate voyeur to a personal part of his life and a companion, that could be entirely different," Banks says.

The research was published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

If you're feeling blue and want your own Aibo, you'll be sorry to hear Sony discontinued the dog and its consumer robotics division back in 2006. You can snag an old Aibo dog, however, on eBay. The most expensive ones are going for more than $3,000 (the original price was still high: $2,000).

Hot topics on dvm360

Veterinarians: Your clients are going to Google with these cat questions

Search engine shares the top 10 questions people asked about dogs and cats in 2014.

Vetcetera: The complex topic of canine fear-related aggression

A guided tour of resources for addressing this popular and complicated subject, featuring advice from Dr. John Ciribassi.

Reality TV and the veterinarian: Discussing mainstream dog training advice with clients

Your clients may be getting behavior advice from cable TV. Get your opinion in the mix.

Blog: Election results pose obstacles for veterinary prescription law

Flip in U.S. Senate's majority may slow progress of Fairness to Pet Owners Act.

7 steps to a better relationship between veterinarians and rescue groups

A DVM in the city shares his advice to veterinary practices for working with rescues.