Dogs pick up robots’ social cues

Machines seem more like people after human interaction


ROBOT MASTER  The PeopleBot may not look much like a human, but some dogs would follow its directions if they had seen the robot interacting with humans beforehand.

Courtesy of Eniko Kubinyi

The Jetsons’ robotic maid, Rosie, could give machines a lesson in social skills. Dogs were more likely to pay attention to a PeopleBot robot — a machine with a laptop head and Mickey Mouse–style hands — after watching it walk, talk and shake hands with humans. When this “social” robot pointed to a hidden frankfurter, some dogs got the hint and found the treat, researchers report September 12 in Animal Cognition. The dogs had trouble picking up cues from a PeopleBot that avoided humans and beep-beeped like a machine. Still, the social bots aren’t quite dog whisperers yet. Dogs followed directions from humans best.

Meghan Rosen headhsot

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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