Animals have always been Stephen's first love, "especially canines," he says. Between school and sports and working with a vet, he also finds time to do volunteer work at a nursing home. Once, he took his golden retriever, Freddie, with him to the home. Given the way the seniors welcomed the dog, Freddie became a regular visitor.

harrison project
Stephen with his dog and robot dog
Then Stephen attended a conference where a researcher talked about the positive effects of exposing preschool children to the antics of Sony's robot dog, Aibo, which dances, sits up and waves its front legs, and otherwise delights children of all ages. Stephen took the hint. He set up a 2.5-year study to evaluate the social behaviors of dementia patients to three types of one-on-one visits: a person alone (you know who), a person with a real dog, or a person and an Aibo robot. Videotapes of the visits were analyzed and patient reactions such as smiles and petting were coded for statistical comparison.

The results? Freddie and Aibo both scored consistently well with the seniors, Stephen reports, "but in some cases, Aibo was even more effective." He'll present his findings this July at the International Society for Anthrozoology's conference of human-animal relations.

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COMMENTS On The Issues

Where would the extra R&D funds come from? A combination of tax revenues, private investment incentives, and charitable contributions.


Stephen C. Kramer

Byram Hills High School
Armonk, N.Y.

Hobbies: Lacrosse, hockey, snowboarding, golf

Ambition: Veterinary medicine or business