Can man made objects replace the real thing?

It appears that in at least one study researchers have found that AIBO robotic dogs can replace the real thing.

I think that this just goes to show how attached people can be to an object if it is designed appropriately.

Is this good or bad?

Its not bad, its terrible.

Things to be considered…

The users never have used a computer. I personally get sick of programs/processes when I can predict the outcome, when I know the level by heart, when I know the end result, when it’s just changing the variable to get the same result, you get what I’m saying. When I used to play video games, I could shoot the enemy around the corner nearly before I rounded the corner, you know the result. It gets old.
These individuals are starting at technology step one, this is part of them learning technology. It’s nearly a game I’d imagine. If anyone aged 20-30 was sped up to being 80-90 at this moment, I doubt this exact dog would stimulate their interest. That’s a whole different ‘what if’ though.

These people may have Alzheimer’s or other medical issues, which surely could make a dramatic change in the numbers.

And how exactly did they measure loneliness? Questionnaire, or their skewed user observation? Geiger counter?

I don’t buy it, or at least I refuse to buy it. Life over plastic.

got to agree, comfort animals (mostly cats but some dog’s) are very common in elder care enviroments and in one well published case one particular cat could some how determing a person was near the end and would spend all its time curled up with the person, till the person passed…lets see sony do that.

and in one well published case one particular cat could some how determing a person was near the end and would spend all its time curled up with the person, till the person passed

That’s a wild story, I believe it too.

On a humorous note;
I can see this in my mind right now… The cat walks into the room, looks around for someone to get pet by, everyone jumps up out of the wheelchairs and runs away! “Not me kitty!”


I saw the news report about that cat, that thing looked creepy man. Sony’s got a lot of work to do in its clairvoyance department.

Believe it!

The last few days before my dad lost his battle with cancer our dog didn’t leave his side. Animals have a sixth sense for that stuff. Our dog seemed depressed as much as we were.

And I concur with NURB. I don’t have any desire to replace my furry friend(s).

Short of banning actual living, breathing pets, the down-side of the existence and availability of robotic pets seems rather negligible.

Perhaps there will be parents or individuals who have some disinclination to have a living pet, who will miss out on the experience entirely.

However, considering the millions of pets that end up neglected or rejected, perhaps it would be a good thing if there were low-maintenance alternatives available to those that just want the idea of a pet, without all the responsibilities.

Mark this thread for consideration for “worst or most misleading thread titles.”

Man-made objects v. the real thing? Ambiguous and misleading, to say the least.

I don’t think the dock jump at a superdogs event was part of this study.

as we are all trying to be green, never forget your pet after years of loving service is fully and automaticly recycled…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…let see sony top that…

We all know you don’t want to lose your trusty companion to a digital Aibo because you will no longer have anyone to blame for that aweful smell!

ummm nope, just think the whole area is STUPID BEYOND MEASURE.

Position Opening:
Freelance Industrial Designer

Project Scope:
Design a robotic tiger to attack the designers of the robot dog.
We may need a designer to design a robotic lion to destroy the robotic tiger.

Personal satisfaction.

LOL @ Taylor :laughing:

aside from the stupidity of some of the above comments, i think this is a valid and worthwhile topic. while im sure real pets are in no danger of being replaced anytime soon with robo-pets, the idea that people can form meaningful relationships with objects has been an area of interest for me personally for a while (I did my major project on something related in university on the topic, 6 years ago), and there is a lot of solid research to justify the exploration in this area.

the fact of the matter is, that people can, and do form emotional connections to objects. just look at the relationship that some people have with a car, a sentimental photo or gift, a piece of art, etc. technology and design can be used to purposefully create a bond between human and object, and while it’d not likely that objects will replace human interaction, i do believe they can be used to augment those connection when human interaction is not possible.

if, in fact, human happiness is a fundamental goal that everyone seeks, why cant this be accounted and designed-for as the primary “use/function” of an object.

while it sounds far out, think of it this way- what is the purpose and function of a child’s teddy bear? happiness, companionship, friendship. if that’s the case, why not have an object that has a similar function/relationship for adults? the elderly? the only reason adults dont carry around a teddy bear is the social stigma associated.

the initial brief of my project was the following-

This project seeks to develop an object which supports the emotional/psychological needs of the user while other means of fulfillment of Belongingness and Love are unavailable. By enriching the quality of experience through multi-sensory stimulation and multi-modal interface control, a user will be able to benefit from a supportive interactive relationship augmenting the user’s abilities to meet their own needs, increasing quality of life; making users happier, healthier and more productive.

2.0 Research
2.1 Emotional and Psychological Needs

As a basis for analysis of emotional/psychological needs, Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Metaneeds provides a rudimentary starting point. Organizing human needs into a multi-level pyramid, Maslow’s Hierarchy attempts to represent those needs to which all people seek to fulfill throughout life activities. Providing that more basic needs are satisfied, according to Maslow, a person will pursue fulfillment of higher needs seeking to achieve the ultimate goal of self-actualization.

The need for Belongingness and Love is superseded only by the physiological requirements of sustenance and safety. The need for Belongingness and Love, deals with the bonds of friendship and social groupings fulfilled by our interactions with others.

Belongingness and Love fulfillment concerns the interaction with others to satisfy one’s experiential emotional and psychological needs. These needs are primarily satisfied by our friends, family and loved ones. While these primary social interactions provide much of the context to emotional/psychological needs fulfillment, there exist a diverse range of secondary interactions and relationships that provide supportive fulfillment roles.

Unfortunately, due to other life obligations (e.g. work, travel, etc.), it is not possible to be always with those people who fulfill our needs most readily. It is in conditions such as these, that objects often support the emotional and psychological needs of the user.

Photographs of loved ones, jewelry, keepsakes, pets, and toys, all can provide some aspect of emotional/psychological support. Typically, our experiences with these objects involve high levels of user-product interaction and hold significant meaning beyond their operational functional means. These are our Objects of Affect and Emotion.

2.2 Human-Product Experiences

With respect to human-product relationships, one outlook attempts to categorize all interactions with products into 5 classes, according to our level of involvement and characteristics of relationship, and of the object itself. One of these classes is the Object of Emotion.

Objects within this class represent products that substantiate or supplant human-human relationships through product use. Experientially, these products provide interactions that result in positive fulfillment of emotional/psychological needs. These experiences are key to the effectiveness of products of this type.

3.0 Analysis
3.1 Human-Product Relationships

By enriching the quality of experience, a user will be able to benefit from a supportive interactive relationship augmenting the user’s abilities to meet their own needs, increasing quality of life; making users happier, healthier and more productive.

The objects of affect currently available to the adult market to provide an experiential fulfillment of those needs of Belongingness and Love, however, are limited.

With limited technology, and limited “smarts”, the objects we expect to interact with do little more at this point than focus our emotional energies. With respect to creating a meaningful relationship and interaction with an object, a more complete, two way interaction must be developed.

some references for further research if you are interested (unfortunately, most of the web links no longer work as this was put together 6+ years ago).

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 1

Dandavate, Uday, Elizabeth B.N. Sanders, and Susan Stuart. 1996. Emotions matter: user empathy in the product development process. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 40th Annual Meeting – 1996.415-418.

eDesign research group. 2000. University of Art and Design Helsinki (UIAH) Background. available from >> ; Internet; accessed 13 August 2000.
Fredrickson, Barbara L. 2000. Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention and Treatment vol 3 article 0001a

Hofmeester, G.H., J.A.M. Kemp, and A.C.M. Blankendaal. 1996. Sensuality in product design: a structured approach. In CHI 96 Electronic proceedings available from >> ; Internet; accessed 13 August 2000

Klein, Jonathan. 1997. Human emotional needs and their relationship to HCI (Affective computing research project, MIT Media Lab). available from http:// Internet; accessed 13 August 2000.

Mäkelä, Anu. 1999. Emotions, user experience and directions for designing emotional rich products. In eDesign literature review. Available from > Aalto University> ; Internet; accessed 13 August 2000

some additional relevant quotations about hapiness, design and emotion-

On the other hand if people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient- or just plain happier- by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.

Dreyfuss, Henry. 1955. Designing for people. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc.

In brief, we believe that existing techniques in educational technology could be leveraged to construct emotional-skill builders that enable their users to hone needed emotional skills, augmenting users’ abilities to meet their own emotional needs…The aim of this work is to increase the quality of life for individuals, increasing their quality of experience, making them happier, more fulfilled, and more productive.

Klein, Jonathan. 1997. Human emotional needs and their relationship to HCI (Affective computing research project, MIT Media Lab). > Affective Computing research project: Human emotional needs inquiry

A design that’s well accepted as a masterpiece by all generations…[the New Beetle’s] shape makes you feel good just by looking at it

Steinle, Gerhard, IDEA 98 Yearbook, IDSA Innovation, Winter 1998

Brand position is what counts, and brand goes back to the emotional content of products.

Essingler, Harmut, Frogdesign, Form Follows Emotion. Forbers ASAP, November 12, 1999

The Audi TT Coupé is the realization of a vision…a modern sports car that will arouse fascination and pure emotion.

Schreyer, Head of Design, Audi AG, >

So what does J Mays bring to automotive design that has, in his words, “done just about every shape in the universe in the last 70 years”? Emotion. Something that “is going to tug on their heartstrings.”

I like the iMac a lot and I think it says a lot about creating a product that people purchase for its vision. The iMac does do things more simply than some other computers, but the real reason you buy it is because it’s got a translucent plastic skin and looks great. It’s an emotional decision that you buy it.

We’re trying to create products that people desire rather than rationalize. I’m truly of the opinion that you buy a product because you’re prepared to spend part of your life with it and that’s just like your relationship with your spouse or your boyfriend or girlfriend. You buy for emotional reasons and then you rationalize your purchase to you friends.

People need an escape and an experience that is different from their day-to-day lives. I often use that analogy with our car designers; we’re not creating great automobiles, we’re trying to create great experiences. And that goes far beyond simply trying to create a beautiful product, it gets into all the psychological aspects of what a person does with their life, what they use the vehicle for, and its heirarchical importance to their lives. You start lookng at products that way and it creates an infinite number of possibilities.

Mays, J. 2000. A conversation with J Mays. Interview by Dike Blair. Artbyte.; available from > Swinging Activities> ; Internet; accessed 13 August 2000

In order to design smart products that will become linked in user’s lives the designer needs to focus on user’s emotional experiences in smart product use.

eDesign research group. University of Art and Design Helsinki (UIAH) Background. available from >> ; Internet; accesed 13 August 2000.

…an activity involving a wide spectrum of professions in which products, services, graphics, interiors and architecture all take part. Together, these activities should further enhance – in a choral way with other professions – the value of life.

International Council of Societies of Industrial Design; Industrial Design definition >

To the extent that it depends on need-gratification, happiness is not relative.

Veenhoven, R. 1991. Is happiness relative? Social Indicators Research, vol 24… Netherlands, Kluwer Academic Publisher. 1-34.

Twenty-three hundred years ago Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness. While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal – health, beauty, money, or power – is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p.1

Whether we are in the company of other people or not makes a great difference to the quality of experience. We are biologically programmed to find other human beings the most important objects in the world. Because they can make life either very interesting and fulfilling or utterly miserable, how we manage our relationships with them makes an enormous difference to our happiness. If we learn to make our relations with others more like flow experiences, our quality of life as a whole is going to be much improved.
On the other hand, we also value privacy and often wish to be left alone. Yet it frequently turns out that as soon as we are, we begin to grow depressed.
Most people feel a nearly intolerable sense of emptiness when they are alone, especially with nothing specific to do. Adolescents, adults, and old people all report that their worst experiences have taken place in solitude.
Why is solitude such a negative experience? The bottom-line answer is that keeping order in the mind from within is very difficult. We need external goals, external stimulation, external feedback to keep attention directed.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p.164-169

Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for self and never for the sake of something else, but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still choose each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general, for anything other than itself.

Aristotle. 350 B.C. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by W.D. Ross. Internet Classics Archive. available from; > The Internet Classics Archive | Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle> ; Internet; accessed 09 October 2000


aside from the stupidity of some of the above comments

relax, r…

Your article does put a spin on this discussion. I think what the major problem here is that the robot dog is supposed to replace Life.
The study was done against a real, living, breathing, puppy. This isn’t robot sculpture or device used to entertain, it’s a device literally modeled after an organism… man’s best friend. There are other very personal emotions attached which are being stomped on by that cute little robot dog.

Take it a step further, if your Grandmother has already passed away, a company comes offering a robot grandmother, ‘to be in the empty place of your deceased grandmother’. It’s not supposed to replace her, just represent her, let you associate the robot with her.
Not a good thought or feeling there…

RK…you’re right…comments were a bit absurd…absurd in a fun…tongue in cheek kind of way.

That’s some interesting stuff you have there. Its easy to go down the road of absurdity when you don’t really have your head wrapped around the topic like you do.

Part of the issues with this thread is that dogs, in particular, are cannonized in our culture. The simple idea of trying to replace Man’s Best Friend with a robot simply seems to absurd not to react in an absurd manner.

But you’re right. Teddy bears, cars, iPods, books. We attach ourselves to objects and there is no reason why a robot dog couldn’t provide for someone in the same way a carbon based object that slobbers and shits in your yard does.

i think you maybe misread the initial study. if you track the article back through engadget and to the original (real news) source, Robot as good as real dog at easing lonely hours | Reuters the article contains the following quote-

…Banks said pets have been shown to help older people feel less isolated. “It really improves loneliness considerably,” he said in a telephone interview.

But many senior citizens are too frail to care for a pet or have had to give up their own animals when they went to the nursing home. “They really miss that bond,” he said.

Banks and colleagues decided to see if a faux fido might offer some comfort.

as it says there, there are instances where a real dog (or whatever) isnt suitable. the robodogs are not meant to wholesale replace real pets, but substitute for them in cases like these (ie. where an elderly person couldnt take care of a real dog).

point being, there are applications where something like this could work. i dont realy see what “other very personal emotions attached which are being stomped on by that cute little robot dog”…

as for robograndma, is not a photo or keepsake handmedown from grandma already a step in that direction? isnt a headstone at the cemetary an object which likewise is designed to represent her, for your own benefit? i dont think we’ll have c3po droids with grandma wigs and frocks on them anytime soon, but certainly the sentiments and feelings are there.



A great piece of work, here is a twiddle for you, chart the anthromorphorising of objects via a time line and our move from a agraian to a industrial life. Is our need to personlise a object a compensation for our lack of contact with other animials. I do know that even farm girls have doll’s, and in some very intresting tests done with other primates the desire for females (and very very young primates) to be attracted to “babies” (in the tests it was a rag doll of quasi human form roughly 1/3 the test subjects size) where the males were less inclined and prefered things that moved. My father grew up on a tradional farm in teh 1920’s where mules were still used for portable power, they had personlites as did many other of the chickens, geese, pigs, goats etc. When he moved from the farm, he bestowed these same personalites into some of the machnes he then was surouned by.


I think some of the “stupid” comments underscore emotional connections some people have with their dogs. I know mine does.