Robot as good as real dog at easing lonely hours

Posted on March 9, 2008 

Robot as good as real dog at easing lonely hours

AIBO eases patient isolation

Researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri compared a 35-pound (16 kg), floppy-eared mutt named Sparky with AIBO, a far-from-lifelike robot dog, to see how residents of three U.S. nursing homes would respond.

“The most surprising thing is they worked almost equally well in terms of alleviating loneliness and causing residents to form attachments,” said Dr. William Banks, a professor of geriatric medicine who worked on the study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

Banks said he had been sure Sparky would have the edge, but to his surprise, both dogs provided virtually equal comfort after seven weeks of visits.

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