Conceived of and developed by Sony in the early 90's - AIBO, an Artificial Intelligence roBOt is able to "see" its surroundings by camera and understand spoken commands in Spanish and English - described as an autonomous robot, it is able to learn and mature based on external stimuli from their owner, environment and other AIBO's.
Peter H. Kahn, Jr conducted a study in 2006, which aimed to analyse pre-school aged children's behaviours with the robot toy. The children participated in 45 minute sessions in two parts: one part was spent interacting with the robot AIBO, and the other, a traditional stuffed dog called Shanti. A pink dog toy ball and toy dog biscuit were also used as props.
The children's behaviours were recorded and reviewed. Kahn found that whilst the children spoke about each in the same way, their behavours differed. The children engaged with AIBO in a more apprehensive way and attempting "reciprocity", whereas the children often mistreated the stuffed dog and "endowed it with animation".
For example, half the children said that both AIBO and Shanti could hear, yet they used far more verbal directives to AIBO than to Shanti.
This suggested that the children in fact did not believe AIBO to be strictly an inanimate object - but was 'real' - and therefore were not engaging in 'pretend play' - an important consideration to think about with so many children today engaged in technological play.
The study reveals some interesting concepts of what we consider as 'real' when we confront technological or 'artificial' nature - or how we behave towards to it - i.e. we may know it is not real, but behave as if it is...
Via Technological Nature: Adaptation and the Future of Human Life by Pater H. Kahn, Jr and Sony Europe.