Bad touch: Intimate robot interactions cause discomfort

TOK TOPICS: Sense Perception, Emotion, Technology, Language


Case description : Social Scientists at Stanford University in their study of Human-Robot interactions found that touching robots in what humans think of as intimate places arouses feelings of discomfort. Earlier the Human-Robot interactions studies mainly researched gestures and speech – touch as a form of communication is understudied as of now. The researchers programmed the robot to verbally instruct 10 volunteers to touch 13 parts of its body. The participants were fitted with sensors on their hands that measured the electrical conductivity of their skin, which in turn reflected how much they were sweating – as a measure of emotional response.

TOK LINK: Not only volunteers were hesitant to touch the robots in its intimate parts, the action by itself aroused stronger emotional response when compared to touching more accessible parts of the robot, such as the hands or neck. The findings suggest that : “People respond to robots in a primitive, social way, when a robot talks like a person and looks somewhat like a small person, people tend to treat that robot like a person, even though they consciously know this is a robot, Touch is a very powerful and compelling way that people can interact with robots” .

Sample KQs:

How does ‘shape’ and ‘form’ of machines influence Emotion?

Can Emotion prevail over Reason in Human-Robot interactions?