Robotic dogs could function as a perfect replacement for our real life furry friends according to a new study published by the University of Portsmouth has found.
Animals, especially dogs, can have therapeutic advantages for children and young people. A new paper, published in The International Journal of Social Robotics, has found that the robotic dog, ‘MiRo-E’, could be just as effective and may even be a much better alternative.
Dr Leanne Proops from the Department of Psychology, who supervised the analysis stated:
“We know that real dogs can provide calming and enjoyable interactions for children – increasing their feelings of wellbeing, improving motivation and reducing stress.
“This preliminary study has found that biomimetic robots – robots that mimic animal behaviors – may be a suitable replacement in certain situations and there are some benefits to using them over a real dog.”
Dogs are the most commonly used animals for treatment because of their training potential and societal character. But there are concerns about using them in a setting with children because of the chance of tripping allergies or transmitting disease, and some people do not like dogs, so may not be familiar in the presence of a real therapy dog.
Olivia Barber, who owns a therapy dog , and is first author Of the paper, said: “Although lots of people in hospitals and schools benefit greatly from getting visits from a therapy dog, we have to be conscious of the welfare of the therapy dog. Visits can be stressful and incredibly tiring for treatment dogs, meaning that we should be researching whether with a robotic animal is feasible.”
There are lots of advantages to utilizing a robotic dog above a therapy dog. They may be thoroughly washed and may work for longer periods of time. They may also be exceptionally lifelike, mirroring the movements and behavior of a real creature, like wagging their tails to show delight, expressing “emotions” through sounds and color, turning their ears sounds as well as going to sleep.
The researchers utilized actual dogs along with a robotic dog in a mainstream secondary school in West Sussex to interact with 34 children aged 11-12.
The two real-life treatment dogs were three-year-old Jack Russell crossed with a Poodle and a 12-year-old Labrador-retriever from the charity pets as therapy. The robotic dog was a MiRo-E biomimetic robot manufactured by Consequential Robotics.
The children were asked to complete a questionnaire about their beliefs and attitudes towards dogs and robotic dog, until they took part in two different free-play sessions, one with a real-life dog and one having a robotic dog.
The researchers found the children spent a similar quantity of time stroking both the real life dog and the robotic dog, but they spent more time interacting with the robotic dog.
Regardless of the children reporting they significantly preferred the session together with all the living dog, overall enjoyment was large and they really expressed more positive emotions following interaction with the robotic robotic dog. The more the kids attributed mental conditions and sentience into the robot and dog, the longer they appreciated the sessions.
Dr Proops said: “This is a small-scale study, but the results show that interactive robotic animals could be used as a good comparison to live dogs in research, and a useful alternative to traditional animal therapy.”
Related Journal Article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12369-020-00722-0