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Oct 15, 2013 09:50 AM EDT

Chimpanzees Interact and Play With Robots, UK Study

Chimpanzees have once again reaffirmed the fact that they are the closest relatives of humans.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Portsmouth researchers, the chimps could reciprocate basic movements made by an interactive robot, communicate and play by offering toys, and laugh at it.

Plus, they were not offended when the robots imitated them and responded in a similar fashion.

This study shows that chimps are willing to interact and socialize with other creatures.

According to the researchers, this interaction with artificial creatures might help them foster 'greater social bonding and develop more complex forms of social interaction' within their community.

"It was especially fascinating to see that the chimps recognised when they were being imitated by the robot because imitation helps to promote their social bonding. They showed less active interest when they saw the robot imitate a human. Some of the chimps gave the robot toys and other objects and demonstrated an active interest in communicating," Dr Marina Davila-Ross, of the University of Portsmouth, said in an official statement.

 "But there were notable differences in how the chimps behaved. Some chimps, for instance, seemed not interested in interacting with the robot and turned away as soon as they saw it," Davila-Ross said. "In our other studies we have found that humans will also react to robots in ways which suggest a willingness to communicate, even though they know the robots are not real."

"It's a demonstration of the basic human desire to communicate and it appears that chimpanzees share this readiness to communicate with others."

The interactive robot used in the study measured approximately 45cm tall and could move its head and limbs freely. The chimpanzee sounds such as laughter were emitted through a small loudspeaker placed in the robot's chest area, hidden underneath a dress.

Before interacting with the synthetic human being, the chimps initially observed a person's interaction with the robot. All the 16 chimps associated with the study displayed lively communication with the robot, such as gestures and expressions.               

The study has been published in the journal Animal Cognition.

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