Can Industrial Robots Keep Workers Happy?

A lack of qualified human workers continues to be an issue for manufacturing. Maybe we’re overlooking an opportunity. Industrial robots could learn to praise human operators.

Can robots praise humans?

Sure. Robots can be programmed to say anything. Sophia, a humanoid robot who was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, made headlines with her admiration of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Amazon’s Alexa will compliment you if you ask. Eliza, an early AI experiment designed to behave like a therapist, was able to carry on extended conversations based on key words from human responses. It wasn’t part of Eliza’s programming to compliment people, but empathic sounding responses could easily be swapped for validating praise.

Some researchers are working on devices that can detect human emotion based on facial expressions. It would be simple enough to program such a device to respond to a grumpy face with, “Cheer up! You’re doing great!”. Sensors could easily be used to identify occasions when operators did a good job, so that the praise would be connected with real-world performance.

Does robot praise motivate human workers?

It’s probably worth a try. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 29% of U.S. workers feel valued at their jobs. Yet praise and recognition have been shown to be as effective for worker satisfaction as a pay raise.

Research on the value of praise is generally based on praise from human managers. Yet, even after decades of research clearly showing that praise has multiple benefits in the workplace, few managers prioritize letting their workers know when they do things right. It would be easier to program industrial machines to do so.

Would it really help?

So far, there is no research on this specific question. However, there is plenty of evidence that human beings can easily endow anything with feelings. The number of people who believe that their computers hate them or their phones love them is one indication. There is extensive research on what kinds of actions on the part of robots make people feel that they have rapport with them — or behave as though they do.

If you’re more concerned with keeping your servo motors running well than getting them to praise your machine operators, give us a call. We’re experts on Rexroth electric industrial motion contorl, from legacy parts to the newest components. We can get your facility back up and running fast — or avoid downtime in the first place.

That could make you feel better than a compliment from a robot.

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