Robotic Pets


“A lot of times in the medical literature about autism, special interests are sort of painted as people having their own little thing that they sink into and escape from all the other people, whereas, in reality, it isn't necessarily always like that.”


Stuffed knitted robot dog

Image description: A knitted white robotic dog standing in a three-quarter view. It has a white body with black ears, eyes, and a tail. Gray patches that simulate metal joints are featured on its legs and under the chin.


Instead, special interests can be a way to connect with others. As this participant explained, “It's especially nice to see something that makes you happy making other people happy too. Being able to share that interest with others, have it be something that brings people together.” This participant found that bringing their Sony AIBO robots with them to places would spark conversations. “It’s a starting point for discussions or if I don’t know what to talk about,” they told me.

Robotic pets were something they had been interested in since they were a little kid, a special interest that has never really gone away. As this participant described: “I think that sort of the joy I get from the robots themselves, and just from meeting other people and seeing other people's, you know, in smiles and playing and interacting with them, and stuff is something that I don't think will ever fully sort of disappear, it might sort of, I guess, wax and wane throughout my life as I have other things going on, but I think that it's probably something that will be at least a large interest of mine, probably for most of my life.”