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Cheery Robots May Make Creepy Companions, but Could Be Intelligent Assistants

A cheery robot.

Cheery robots may give people the creeps and serious robots may actually ease anxiety depending on how users perceive the robot's role in their lives, according to an international team of researchers.


Pennsylvania State University is leading an international team of researchers studying how robots with different personalities are used in retirement homes by seniors.

They found cheery robots may make users uneasy, while serious robots can reduce anxiety depending on how users perceive the robot's role in their lives.

The study found seniors were more likely to consider an assistant robot socially attractive and intelligent when they thought its demeanor was cheerful, says PSU professor S. Shyam Sundar. However, seniors were more willing to accept robots labeled as companions if the machine had a more serious demeanor.

"It's pretty clear from our data that a serious demeanor adds credibility to a companion robot, whereas a playful demeanor softens the tension when interacting with an assistant robot," Sundar says.

Assistant robots are designed to help people with everyday tasks, while companion robots are designed to support people emotionally. Knowing how users might react to a robot's demeanor and role could help developers make robots that people are more likely to accept and use.

"The variations of role and demeanor are shown to indirectly affect robot use intentions, and are therefore important to understand, as more initiatives target senior citizens as a prime user population for social robotics," Sundar says.

From Penn State News
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