Star-Telegram | 01/22/2006 | Robotic pets offer health benefits, too: "Sure, pets are cute and seem to improve human health. But there are some places where they can't live, such as nursing homes. So can a robot pet provoke the same reactions?
Yes, according to a few preliminary studies -- but not to the same degree.
'I thought it was kind of silly when we started looking into it, ' says Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University's veterinary school. 'But there's something going on there.'
In a recent study at the University of Missouri, for example, levels of the stress hormone cortisol dropped among adults who, for several minutes, petted AIBO, Sony's dog-shaped robot that responds when stroked, chases a ball and perks up when it hears a familiar voice. That's the same reaction live dogs get. Unlike real dogs, though, AIBO didn't prompt increases in 'good' body chemicals such as oxytocin and endorphins."