While it's well known that pets can lower the stress levels of their human companions, a new study by the Centre for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University's veterinary school claims that robot pets can do exactly the same thing.
Researchers studied children aged between seven and 15 who had a Sony Aibo robot dog in parallel with other children who owned a living pet. Over 70 per cent of the robo-pet owners said that the machines 'could be a good companion'.
"Interaction with animals has been shown to increase children's physiological health, social competence and learning opportunities," said lead researcher Gail F. Melson.
"In turn, there has been a movement to create technological substitutes for pets, such as the Tamagotchi, Furby, Tama and Aibo. As this technology becomes more sophisticated and pervasive, its impact on children's lives will increase. "
The team also gave Aibos to elderly residents in care homes for six weeks and found that they were less depressed and lonely after interaction with the robotic dogs. Some residents reported being more active after playing with the robot.
The work is similar to a study being undertaken in Japan where a mental commitment robot dubbed Paro has been developed.
Paro is a seal-shaped robot designed to mimic a pet but without the problems that can be associated with traditional pets.
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