Sorry, Rover: Robots to come over

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Sony's 'Crystal' is an Aibo (Artificial Intelligence RoBOt) prototype.
Sony's 'Crystal' is an Aibo (Artificial Intelligence RoBOt) prototype.
Therapy dogs have been used for years to help the elderly cope with loneliness and depression. But a new study shows that these canine companions could have some computerized competition.

Dr. William Banks, a professor of geriatric medicine at St. Louis University, found that when it comes to relieving loneliness among seniors, a robotic dog named Aibo is just as effective as the real thing.

The study, which was released in the March issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, pitted Banks' own professional therapy dog Sparky against its robot counterpart in six weeks of therapeutic nursing home visits. Of the three groups of seniors studied, Sparky visited one group, Aibo visited another, and one control group received no visits. At the end of the trials, both of the groups receiving visits said they were less lonely and more attached to their respective canines.