Your Next Therapy Dog Could Be a Biomimetic Robot
Biomimetic MiRo-E-Robot together with the therapy dog Tallulah University of Portsmouth
Having an animal companion can be helpful in solving a wide range of mental and physical health problems, especially among children. But not everyone can keep a pet. Now, a new study shows that spending time with a robot dog as a companion can bring many of the same benefits as spending time with a real dog.
Research carried out at the University of Portsmouth has been published in the International Journal of Social Robotics. It found that a group of 11- and 12-year-old children who had two sessions with the MiRo-E biomimetic robot dog experienced many of the same positive emotions as when they spent time with a real therapy dog.
The researchers point out the potential benefits of robotic therapy dogs for those who have allergies to animals or are afraid of dogs. Dr. Leanne Proops, who oversaw the study, said in a statement, “We know that real dogs can provide children with calming and enjoyable interactions – they increase their well-being, improve motivation, and reduce stress.
“This preliminary study found that biomimetic robots – robots that mimic animal behavior – can be an appropriate substitute in certain situations and that there are several advantages to using them over a real dog.”
Dogs are the most popular therapy animals because they are sociable and easy to train. However, they also have many requirements like regular exercise and need to be cleaned up afterward. Robot dogs like MiRo-E can mimic many dog behaviors, such as: For example, wagging your tail and turning your ears or expressing emotions through noises require less intensive care.
The study’s lead author, Olivia Barber, owns a therapy dog herself. Barber mentioned that robot dogs could also reduce stress for busy therapy dogs. “While many people in schools and hospitals benefit greatly from visits by a therapy dog, we need to look out for the therapy dog’s welfare,” she said. “Visits can be stressful and incredibly stressful for therapy dogs, which means we should investigate whether the use of a robotic animal is feasible.”
This study was a small-scale study, so more research is needed before the results can be generalized. But perhaps one day your animal companion could be a happy robot instead of a furry friend.