In his excellent 1968 novel Do
In a recent study at the University of Missouri, levels of cortisol dropped among adults who petted AIBO, Sony's dog-shaped robot. Cortisol is a hormone that indicates stress. AIBO has some convincing dog-like behaviors; it responds when stroked, chases a ball and perks up when it hears a familiar voice.
Dr. Takanori Shibata, the creator of Paro, has found that interaction with cute, cuddly robots lowered stress, elevated moods and decreased depression. Paro also encouraged communication and social behavior among subjects. Shibata found that brain activity increased 50 percent in patients with dementia after just twenty minutes with Paro.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com