Chimpanzees are our closed relatives in behavioral terms and as well as in appearance because we share 98.8 percent of the DNA pool. This striking similarity made the researchers inquisitive about how a chimpanzee would reciprocate to a robot. Robot fascinates humans, but the topic of research was whether the robot can lure chimpanzees’ interest too. Like humans do the chimpanzees understand that the robots are not living and do they attempt to communicate or make any bond with the bot?
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology found some startling resemblance in the behavior as in humans.
16 chimpanzees chosen from Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta were given a doll look alike robot for the comparison. The bot named as Robota, developed at EPFL’s Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory capable of moving its head and arm (similar to chimps and humans as well) and a speaker with chimpanzee sound was concealed beneath the clothes.
The chimps were first shown humans dealing with robots and later bot were handed to them for the study. Dr. Marina Davila-Ross leading the research found some amusing facts. Surprisingly some chimps were found trying to form a social bond or friendship by alluring the bot by offering, some toys and other objects of their interest. Some were found seeking for attention, others were making expressions and even laughed making the study more interesting. However not all chimps out of the lot, made the effort to interact with the bot and some were found ignoring the bot, showing no sign of interest.
Chimps level of involvement and responses were high when the bot imitated chimps actions and sound over humans, the reasons behind these behavioral pattern are still unclear.
These sounds and actions plays important part in chimps social bonding. More in-depth study can reveal important sounds and actions of chips communication. But it is clear, like humans interact or show some gesture to a bot being aware its a bot and not real, chimps too showed similar interest, calling for further research on the topic.
With chimps displaying openness in interaction with bots, more controlled research can now be undertaken in understanding chimps behavior and way of action.