Dogs will obey commands from social robots

Will dogs obey commands from robots? In IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman writes that "Yale University’s Social Robotics Lab led by Brian Scassellati presented a paper taking the first step towards determining whether dogs, which are incredibly good at understanding social behaviors in humans, see human-ish robots as agents—or more specifically, whether dogs see robots more like humans (which they obey), or more like speaker systems (which they don’t)."

Spoiler: The dogs do respond to the robot's commands much more frequently than they obey the voice from the speaker system, even if the experiment appeared to baffle the animals.

From IEEE Spectrum:

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.”

"Dogs Obey Commands Given by Social Robots" (IEEE Spectrum)