Just look at these good dogs listening to a social robot! Just look at them!
While the research is obviously difficult to follow, it turns out that dogs are far more likely to interact and listen to a humanoid robot than a speaker. Writes the team at Spectrum:
“Results of the experiments showed that the dogs paid significantly more attention to the robot than the speaker, and were significantly more likely to follow a sit command from the robot. Dogs obeyed the sit command over 60 percent of the time when it came from the robot, but less than 20 percent of the time when it came from the speaker, even if they did look a bit confused about the whole thing at times.”
The best part of this experiment is that it shows us that even dogs can be fooled by the uncanny valley or, at least, don’t care enough to see if the speaker is actually human or not. If there’s a treat in it for them, they figure, why lot listen to a blue and white plastic thing!
We asked [lead researcher Meiyin] Qin whether she thought it would make a difference if the robot was more or less humanoid, how much of a face it had, whether it smelled like anything, and other traits that dogs might associate with human-ness. “Since dogs are very sensitive to human social cues, the robot being a humanoid or not may make a difference,” Qin says. “However, if a non-humanoid robot behaved like an agent (e.g., behaved like a dog, or exhibit any social behaviors), dogs may also respond in a social manner.”
She explained that, in terms of whether the robot has eyes or not, or smells like a person, these factors could also impact how dogs respond to the robot. But Qin adds that the researchers need further evidence to give a more affirmative answer. “Whether the robot moves or not could affect the dogs differently,” she says. “A robot that just stands still without any movement may not present itself as an agent to the dog, and the dogs may not respond to such a robot socially. On the other hand, a robot that moves too much (e.g., the robot walks) or moves too fast will simply scare the dogs.”