Giggling robots make better friends. That’s what researchers from the University of California San Diego found when they studied interactions between children and robots. The centerpiece of the study was a machine that can wave goodbye, giggle when touched on the head, and walk around without bumping into walls or toddling humans. The machine was so realistic, Mason Inman of the New Scientist writes, that children were fooled into treating it like one of their own.
People – even toddlers – usually bore quickly with robots. But children became more attached to this robot over time. The toddlers ended up relating to the robot much like a living thing: playing with it, hugging it, and taking care of it. The children would even cover the robot with a blanket and say “night night” when the robot would lie down after running out of batteries. The scientists hope their findings will lead to the development of simple robots to help out in kindergarten classes and with autistic children.
You can watch a video of children playing with the robot here: