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Robot interaction

Updated: May 19, 2020

Humans can benefit from increased interaction with robots.

By Carole Railton

As humans, we have relationships with many people and now we are also enjoying relationships with robots such as Alexa. Alexa is a virtual assistant AI technology developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo smart speakers developed by Amazon Lab126 in California in 2014.

Our emotional entanglement with robots is becoming ever closer as the developed world brings in a new order for us and robots take on traditional human behaviours.

The Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, based in Germany, built robots that gave “soft-warm hugs” to people. The people involved reported feeling trust and affection from the robots, with some even saying they felt “understood” by them.

They said that it was not that they were falling in love with robots rather that some form of social connection was forming that was often missing from conventional relationships.

In Japan for example, older people were drawn to a social interaction with a small robot called Paro with many good results.

Paro is an advanced interactive robot developed a leading Japanese industrial automation pioneer, AIST. It allows the documented benefits of animal therapy to be administered to patients in environments such as hospitals and extended care facilities where live animals present treatment or logistical difficulties.

As a result of using Paro, patients were found to have increased motor and emotional stimulations. Tests also showed that seniors improved their relationships with other humans and reduced their stress levels.

Most cultures have objects that are worshipped, such as items in our houses or gardens. Having spent some time in Indonesia, I learnt that there are spirits to which local people refer, and there are offerings to gods, that include food, flowers and alcohol. Images of these gods are also created.

We have always had relationships with things that aren’t human, so interacting with robots is nothing new. Robots, our new friends, might just be an aid to helping us keep our empathic skills honed so we can use them in times of need.

Photo: Carole Railton (copyright). "Our emotional entanglement with robots is becoming ever closer".

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