Should Robots Be Persuasive?

Researchers are trying to figure out the best way to make robots persuasive to human beings. The University of Toronto programmed robots to behave in a range of different ways.

Some were abusive, telling people they’d be stupid not to follow the robot’s suggestions.

Others tried logic, arguing that their sensors gave them specialized knowledge and pretending to count objects with repeated finger motions.

Some clutched their hearts (or roughly where their hearts would be if they had hearts) and told peopel they would be so happy if the humans followed their suggestions.

The 10 randomly-distributed strategies were informed by the researchers’ observation of health care professionals. Doctors and nurses use logic, friendliness, emotional body language, and perhaps even abusive language to try to influence patients to cooperate in their treatment. The researchers can see their robots helping out in elder care and other areas where a shortage of human workers might require the use of robots.

An earlier study at the Boston Museum of Science found that robots were more easily able to get donations from men if they were presented as female robots. Other persuasive elements researchers have identified: making eye contact, gesturing with arms, standing close to the human. Take it too far, and you reach the uncanny valley. When people are involved in a task and a very human-like robot comes up close and tries to be persuasive, the human beings back off.

Persuasion in the factory

A robot that could notice when people are ignoring safety regulations could make a big difference in factory safety. A robot that would not just notice the problem but also persuade the human workers to change their behavior? That could be priceless.

Success in this area will require making robots appealing enough to cause human beings to respond to their cuteness and friendliness, but not so friendly that they creep out the human factory workers.

In the meantime, you probably just want your factory robots to perform their tasks correctly. If you need service or support for your Rexroth electric motion control, call on us. We’re specialists, and we can get you back up and running with minimal downtime.

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