Dogs may help teach robots social skills
Washington: Behaviour of 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 the man`s best friend reacts sociably to robots that behave socially towards them, even if the devices look nothing like a human.
This animal behaviour study tested the reaction of 41 dogs. 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.
Then, 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 customised 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. For instance, the dogs spent more time near the robot or gazing at its head when the PeopleBot behaved socially.
Furthermore, it was quite difficult for the dogs to find the hidden food when a robot pointed it out to them. However, further analysis of this result showed that the dogs were far better at finding the loot when a socially behaving robot pointed it out to them.
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.
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