Man's best friend? Research shows dogs are happy to interact with robots

Canines were happy to follow suggestions from 'social' robots to find food

We might be some way off convincing humans that robots are anything but, well, robots but it seems that dogs are far more accepting of mechanical interlopers.

A new study published in the journal Animal Cognition has shown that our canine friends are more than happy to interact socially with robots, following their cues and commands to find food even when the bot in question looks distinctly unwelcoming.

“The PeopleBot does not resemble a human, but looks rather like a piece of gym equipment with a white gloved hand attached to it,” notes the press release for the research, which was led by Gabriella Lakatos of the Hungarian Academy of Science and Eötvös Loránd University.

The study assembled 41 dogs, testing each in turn to see how they would react to the PeopleBot. Half of the dogs were exposed to PeopleBot in ‘social’ mode and the other half experienced ‘asocial’ interactions.

"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. [...] 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."

In the 'social' environments the dogs' owners shook hands with PeopleBot and talked to it whilst walking around the room. The bot itself responded with pre-programmed audio clips of human voices and called the dog by its name. In the asocial tests the robot would only beep at the dog, with the owner ‘talking’ to it by typing on a keyboard.

A dog is shown ignoring the 'asocial' robot pointing out food. Photo Credit: Eniko Kubinyi

In the social experiments, the canines seemed at home with the PeopleBot: "Dogs spent more time staying near the robot experimenter as compared to the human experimenter, with this difference being even more pronounced when the robot behaved socially," notes the study. "Similarly, dogs spent more time gazing at the head of the robot experimenter when the situation was social."

The research shows that whilst dogs are quite happy to interact with robots thankfully these friendly relations have to first be established by a human. Dog owners rest easy - in the eyes of your pet you're not completely replaceable.

The scientist behind the study also hope that their work will have more tangible benefits helping design the next generation of social robots. “Roboticists who design interactive robots should look into the sociality and behavior of their designs, even if they do not embody human-like characteristics,” said Lakatos.

Not biting the hand that feeds it: a dog reacts favourably to a 'social' PeopleBot. Photo credit: Eniko Kubinyi

Photo Credit: Eniko Kubinyi

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss