Are Robots Requirements for a Story?

Robots and other seemingly inanimate objects might appear to be just that. However, we do not want to deny that they have certain human characteristics. Many of these efforts are made in an effort to make technology more real and trustworthy.

Sridhar Iyengar (Head of Europe, Zoho Corporation) said that “Making technology human is a common approach in making technology more familiar to people and so make them more comfortable using it.” For example, chatbots don’t need to be scripted. You want the answers to seem natural and to build a relationship with users.

This area has seen some interesting developments. Robots can be made male or female. Research at Washington State University shows that robots’ sex can affect how or whether we engage with them.

According to the study, people are more comfortable speaking with robots in hospitality settings if they appear to be female than male. This was particularly true when the robot appeared humanoid.

The authors say that people have a tendency feel more comfortable being cared for and comforted by females due to gender stereotyping regarding service roles. This gender stereotype seems to transfer to robot interactions and is amplified when robots are more humanlike.

Robot origins

Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business suggests this may extend to the “origins” of a robot. This study showed that robots are more authentic when we consider the creators of these technologies.

AI is often seen as less authentic than humans. However, the researchers sought to find out if technology could be given a form of a human source story.

The authors explain that it is often not the objective characteristics of products and services that drive consumers to buy in advanced economies. It’s what we make of them, what meaning we give them. It is important to believe that something is authentic.

This belief can prove to be a powerful tool for companies. We believe authenticity is so powerful, we will pay more for products and services we believe to be authentic.

Artificial authenticity

Researchers tested the authenticity and usefulness of AI technology in various scenarios, including therapy and recruitment. Cyrill, a hypothetical AI agent was responsible for performing the work in each scenario. Each scenario gave Cyrill a backstory about the work “he”, which was explained in each scenario.

For some time, research has focused on building trust between humans and robots. research by the U.S Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory indicates that facial expressions of humans could play a crucial role in building trust, at least for the battlefield.

Researchers explain that they wanted to quantify and characterize factors that affect trust in automated driving. “With this information we can develop a robust method to predict decisions in automation use to eventually allow active, online mitigation strategies to enable effective calibration techniques when agents and humans are working in real-time.”

It is easier than giving robots human facial features. This also had a greater impact on the robot’s authenticity. This boost was even more evident when the origin story was intentionally less human-like.

Forming bonds

As robot interactions become more frequent, trust is more important. Research at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology examined how robots can build trust by touching people and engaging in small talk.

Researchers tested the effects of robotic touch on Japanese volunteers. Sometimes, the robot stroked the volunteers gently on the back, while other times they received comments such as “Hello, how’s it going?”

Volunteers reported a better mood when the robot touched and spoke to them. They also reported that they felt more positive when both the touch and speech happened simultaneously. Results also showed that participants were more likely to smile when the robot touched them or spoke to them. This condition also led to a greater tendency for people to see their robot companions as more human-like.


Building trust

Although we might assume that our approach to building trusting relationships with robots will be different from that of humans, this may not always be true. Research at the University of Montreal shows that building trust with robots is much the same as with humans.

Researchers conducted a trust experiment in which human volunteers were asked to give a $10 gift to a partner. The partner could be a human, robot or robot acting for a human. The experiment was a classic game theory one, as the human volunteer knew that there were gains to be had, but trust would be the key. Robots used in the experiment were programmed with the intention of mimicking human players’ reciprocation behavior.

These kinds of games allow for quick convergence between decisions that benefit both sides. The key element in this experiment was the emotional reactions of people to robots and humans.

These results show that humans trust robots and humans alike. In the past, people trusted humans to gain information and financial gains. The same pattern was observed with robots.

This is a positive thing, particularly as interactions between man-machine are more common and take place in more sensitive areas. However, trusting relationships can be encouraged by giving technology a face and backstory.

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