Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have made for some sensational headlines in the past few months. It seems only fitting that advances in such technology would find its way into the equine industry.

Roboticist Eakta Jain from the University of Florida, Gainesville, turned to horses when she wanted to create robots that worked better with humans. Jain works on creating autonomous robots that can make their own decisions with scant human interaction.

According to an article in Science News Explores,  there are five levels of autonomy when it comes to robots and computers. These range from 1, the least, to 5, completely autonomous. Jain realized that the relationship that humans have with horses is a five. “You trust them with your life,” Jain told the reporter, using the scenario of a horse taking a rider home on its own. To further her research, Jain spent a year learning to ride and working with horses at the Florida campus.

The gist of Jain’s work centers around how horses and humans interact, specifically that horses communicate by action, not sound, and by building trust and respect between the animal and its handler/rider. She wants to explore if similar unspoken communication can translate to robots, and if trust can be built that would convince people to want to try working with a robot.