Hardware companions?: what online AIBO discussion forums reveal about the human-robotic relationship
A paper by Batya Friedman, Peter H. Kahn Jr., Jennifer Hagman
In this study, we investigated people’s relationships with AIBO, a robotic pet, through 6,438 spontaneous postings in online AIBO discussion forums. Results showed that AIBO psychologically engaged this group of participants, particularly by drawing forth conceptions of technological essences (75%), life-like essences (49%), mental states (60%), and social rapport (59%). However, participants seldom attributed moral standing to AIBO (e.g., that AIBO deserves respect, has rights, or can be held morally accountable for action). Our discussion focuses on how robotic pets (now and in the future) may (a) challenge traditional boundaries (e.g. between who or what can possess feelings), (b) extend our conceptions of self, companionship, and community, and (c) begin to replace interactions with live pets. We also discuss a concern that people in general, and children in particular, may fall prey to accepting robotic pets without the moral responsibilities (and moral developmental outcomes) that real, reciprocal companionship and cooperation involves. This research contributes to a growing literature on the human-robotic relationship.