All robots are not treated equally by humans, researchers are finding. The more lifelike a robot is, the more likely humans are to feel some kind of emotional connection or attachment to it.
This is what Christoph Bartneck at the University of Canterbury and his team are finding. Bartneck, who is a senior lecturer and an associate editor for the International Journal of Social Robotics, spoke about the research in an interview with New Zealand's HitLabNZ:
"We set out to study this perception of life-likeness or human likeness, and the experiments that we did, usually go around trying to understand and being able to measure this phenomenon."
The researchers asked people to interact with the robot for a while, then terminate it, and people were more reluctant to do so, particularly with robots who showed more intelligence, said Bartneck.
The show's host brought up people's connections with their iPhones, but Bartneck doesn't consider Siri to be in a class with the robots he's talking about. In other words, there's a good chance you don't give a crap about hurting Siri's feelings (as various parodies on YouTube can corroborate).
"Of course an iPhone doesn't have any arms or legs," says Bartneck. "It doesn't really do anything other than communicating with you, so it's more a computer than a robot, but indeed, look how much distance people put between themselves and the iPhone - not very much. They keep it close at all times. Even in their bed."
Kieran Campbell at nzherald has some additional quotes from Bartneck, who says some tests found that people may refuse to undress in front of the more life-like robots. Campbell reports:
Studies show people can also get embarrassed around robots.
"Particularly if a robot looks like us and we're asked to do something with it that we probably wouldn't do with a stranger, like take our clothes off for example.
How many times have you thought twice about getting undressed in front of your iPhone?
Here are some life-like robots that you might want to cover yourself in front of:
Shimi the robot will be hanging out at the Google I/O. He doesn't seem incredibly life-like. We'll keep our ears open for any wild stories.