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Robotics Science

How Do People Respond To Being Touched By a Robot? 137

An anonymous reader writes "You know it's coming, and for the forever-alone crowd, not soon enough: robots that physically interact with humans. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found in a study that people generally had a positive response toward being touched by a benevolent robotic nurse, but that their perception of the robot's intent made a significant difference. 'Even though the robot touched people in the same way,' said a team lead, 'if people thought the robot was doing that to clean them, versus doing that to comfort them, it made a significant difference in ... whether they found that contact favorable or not.'"
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How Do People Respond To Being Touched By a Robot?

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @12:35PM (#35443978)

    There is something about a genuine human touch that is seen as empathetic, as an act of kindness. Even if we know it's disingenuous, or that it's part of a person's job, there is still something in the back of our minds that responds to it as a genuine human connection.

    Robots, on the other hand, can NEVER be empathetic or kind--and we know this without a doubt. There touch isn't a connection and never can be. That introduces a creep factor that no amount of programming or human emulation can ever fix. Because we know they have no base morality or emotion and are incapable of empathy, robots will always inherently creep people out at best, or scare the shit out of them at worst.

  • by mano.m ( 1587187 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @12:47PM (#35444146)
    I disagree. Empathy and kindness can be programmed, and if sufficiently advanced, may be indistinguishable from human empathy or kindness. What makes my genetic programming or yours more legitimate than that of a future robot? Then again, we may not even need to get there. Humans have a tremendous ability to empathise unilaterally. Spock and R. Daneel Olivaw are two of the most beloved characters in sci-fi. We emotionally connect to pet rocks and the abandoned lamp in the IKEA commercial; we feel for characters in novels and are moved by music. Why not a robot?
  • Are you sure? I mean, can't a compassionate programmer have programmed the robot to be compassionate to a human for him, by proxy?

    I mean, if you see the robot as an agent of a programmer who wants to help you, what's so creepy about that?


  • by JackOfAllGeeks ( 1034454 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @01:45PM (#35444800)

    I bet your girlfriend wouldn't like receiving a love letter that you had bought from "Love Letters Unlimited" and just inserted her name into, would she?

    This is why the greeting card industry has been such a failure.

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