To test whether residents connected better with Sparky, a real dog, or Aibo, the robotic dog, researchers divided a total of 38 nursing home residents into three groups. All were asked questions to assess their level of loneliness. One group saw Sparky once a week for 30 minutes, another group had similar visits with Aibo, and a control group saw neither furry nor mechanical critter.
After seven weeks, all residents were asked questions about how lonely they felt and how attached they were to the dogs. The residents who received visits from real and artificial pooches felt less lonely and more attached to their canine friends. There was no statistical difference between whether the real or robotic dog did a better job.The study also suggests that robots with personality also could help care for older adults who live alone and need a little monitoring.