Robot dogs are almost as effective as the real thing in cheering up elderly nursing home residents, a new study at St. Louis University has found. Once the patients had some time to get used to him, researchers say robot mutt AIBO lowered loneliness levels about as well as a lovable therapy dog named Sparky did in a control group, the AP reports.
AIBO wagged his robotic tail and blinked his lights as the residents talked to him. "He's an engaging sort of guy," the study's author said. Enthusiastic researchers say robot companions could be the way of the future. But one computer expert wasn't so sure, pointing out that the old folks may have felt less lonely simply because somebody had visited to drop the robot off.