Research and consulting firm Jon Peddie Research published a whitepaper on the benefits of companion robots, including the Sony Aibo dog. AIBO—is an acronym for Artificial Intelligence roBOt—meaning in the Japanese language “companion,” “friend,” or “pal.” Companion robots have been with us for over two decades and yet, according to JPR, are still not that well known.
Born in the mid-1990s, Aibo is in a specific class of robots called socialbots made to resemble animals and are commonly referred to as “robopets.” These robopets are lifelike through numerous advanced technologies such as improved sensors (Sony is a leader in the sensor field) and cloud-based artificial intelligence, making these robopet companions intelligent and independent. They know where they are in the world, have eyes and ears, and can feel someone touching them. The Aibo dog can roam independently or with a purpose and even bark and play.
Most pet owners think of their animals as family members. Simply petting, playing, and talking with a pet can lower stress levels and help people of all ages improve their fitness, mental outlook, and overall quality of life. Robopets can also be incredibly lifelike, wagging their tails to show excitement, expressing “emotions” through sounds and color, turning their ears towards sounds, and even going to sleep. However, there are instances where people cannot have or maintain a live pet, and this is where Aibo brings pet companionship benefits without the risks.
The whitepaper explores the health benefits of a robopet over a therapy dog. For example, robopets can be thoroughly cleaned and work for an extended time. In addition, other health benefits include decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. In addition, clinicians reported positive changes in dementia patients who engaged in robopet therapy and displayed less stress, lower anxiety, and several reduced the use of antidepressants and pain medications for the three-month study.
Robopets appeal to young children and elderly or disabled people because they consistently provide unconditional love and emotional support. Companion robots are gradually finding their way into various areas that improve children’s experiences or help them develop valuable skills. For example, the CDC has said pets could teach children compassion and responsibility.
Loneliness has been rising in society, particularly among the elderly population and especially over the past year during COVID-19. However, various studies reported that residents in nursing homes experienced a sense of joy, smiled, and interacted with others more when pets are present. In addition, interactive companion robots can reduce loneliness in long-term care facilities, and residents became very attached to these robopets.
Numerous studies have shown that all ages of people form real emotional bonds with robopets that keep them happier, healthier, and intellectually engaged. It is in this unique space is where Aibo lives, loves, and excels.