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In search of a scale for human-robot interactions

George Nott | Sept. 29, 2017
QUT researcher seeking to develop a measure for our bonds with bots.

Photo via Computerworld Australia. 

Social robots look set to become increasingly ubiquitous – their potential touted in healthcare, education, aged care, customer service and retail. Trials are already underway in Australia, placing humanoid bots at airports and shopping centres to guage the public's reaction to them.

But as social robots become more commonplace, there has emerged a need to measure our interactions with them.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher Nicole Robinson is seeking to develop a psychometric scale for human-robot interactions, and is appealing to the public to take part in her study.

"We are still trying to find out what bond or connection, if at all, is formed when interacting with a robot," Robinson explains.

"Some people may really enjoy it and feel a strong degree of comfort around a robot or bond to it, whereas others may not feel convinced about it and may not want to do it again. We are still learning what separates these two types of people from each other."

While a limited number of scales relating to human-robot interactions exist, these measure a human's trust in a robot (such as the 'Trust Perception Scale-HRI'), or their attitudes towards it (like the 'Negative Attitudes Towards Robots Scale' or NARS).

Robinson, a researcher with QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, is seeking to develop a measure of an individuals response to a robot in a one-to-one setting.

“The creation of a psychometric scale to evaluate a human-robot interaction could have wide individual and industry application, such as finding out how people react to an interaction with a health, tutor or worker robot in their home environment or workplace,” she said.

“The opinions and perspectives from the general public on this topic will help us to discover how we could develop a robot’s task, role or behaviour to make it more acceptable and functional to use for people."

The study involves participants watching a video of a robot and a person discussing a topic, followed by a short questionnaire.


Comforting or confronting?

It is likely most of us will become more comfortable around robots as our exposure to them increases, Robinson says.

"We don’t think too much about interacting with a smartphone, computer or tablet, once you have a lot of experience with it and have done it many times. As a society, more knowledge, exposure, and practice with robots may make it less overwhelming to people who have never interacted with a robot before. It could follow in a similar pattern to other types of technology and become another regular type of tech around us in the near future."


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