The robots will be able to take away our work, but the dogs will not take us away. Sometimes, these animals understand us better than our cousins the chimpanzees and not because they are trained. If we point to an object, the animal directs its attention to it. If a robot does it, the dog looks at it like the cows on the train. This was confirmed by a Yale University study, conducted by three researchers, with twenty dogs and a Nao, the anthropomorphic robot manufactured by Aldebaran Robotics under the umbrella of Softbank.
"An extensive literature on interactions between robots and humans has shown that people tend to see robots as agents, and it is unknown whether this trend is unique in humans or shared with other animals," said the study, signed by Meiying Quin. Brian Scassellati and Laurie Santos.
Studying how our canine friends react to the androids not only clears the previous question. "Dogs assume an important role as service animals and may have to work with robots, for example, it may be necessary for a dog to receive orders from a robot." The training will be very different depending on whether the dogs can perceive the robots as agents spontaneously. "
To get rid of doubts, the researchers placed two boxes before each animal. One of them had a reward inside; the other one was empty. The dogs were aware that one of the containers carries a prize but they did not know which one. The idea was that a gesture from the robot should help them determine it. When the signal was made by a human, the dogs were able to locate the reward by an average of 6.75 out of every 8 attempts. When the interlocutor was a robot, they only succeeded in 3.8 attempts.
Is everything all lost? Will dogs and robots never be understood? According to the researchers, the problem may be that we have not yet identified the robotic behaviors that can prompt a response from the dogs.
On the other hand, they do not rule out that the design of the experiment may have affected the perception of the animals. For this reason, they are working on a new methodology in which before the test, a longer time is devoted to the phase of introduction of the robot to the dog and will accompany the gestures with human voices.