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Study: Nobody Wants Social Robots That Look Like Humans Because They Threaten Our Identity


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Henrik Scharfe, left, and his android double Geminoid DK.

Researchers say people tend to view human-like robots as threats to their own identities.

Credit: Henrik Scharfe/Geminoid DK

The adoption of social robots into people's lives is complicated by humans' tendency to view human-like robots as a threat to their identity, according to a recent report in the International Journal of Social Robotics.

The researchers say surveys conducted over the last several years found, despite a positive perception of robots overall, a significant opposition to anthropomorphic machines performing tasks such as teaching children and caring for seniors.

"We expect that for humans, the thought that androids would become part of our everyday life should be perceived as a threat to human identity because this should be perceived as undermining the distinction between humans and mechanical agents," the researchers note.

They tested this theory by showing a group of people a series of pictures of non-human robots, humanoid robots, and human-looking androids, while asking them about perceived potential damage of the robot to human essence and identity, along with how much agency they saw in the robot. Participants showed little love for the androids, and the researchers observed, "the more the robot's appearance resembles that of a real person, the more the boundaries between humans and machines are perceived to be blurred."

A related concern is the worry social robots may be resisted because they are better at performing tasks than humans are, no matter how much they resemble people physically.

From IEEE Spectrum
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