The time when our bosses could be artificial intelligences may still be a long way off, but recent research shows that the appearance of these robots can have an impact on the mental well-being of workers in a company.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have conducted a study using two robotic wellness trainers with 26 employees who participated in weekly wellness sessions led by these robots for four weeks.
The robots were identical in their voice, facial expressions, and script, but there was one really important design change: their appearance.
The appearance of one of the robots was toy-style, small in size, while the other robot was more humanoid, with arms and legs, and the success of each of them was very different among the employees.
However, workers who did wellness exercises with a toy-like robot had a greater connection than those who worked with the humanoid-like robot.
They comment that the toy-like robot, being simpler in appearance, workers may have had lower expectations and ended up finding a better connection to the robot.
Meanwhile, workers who worked with the humanoid robot were disappointed, saying the robot was not capable of interactive conversations.
“We wanted to take robots out of the lab and study how they could be useful in the real world.says Micol Spitale of Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology.
The QTRobot humanoid robot is approximately 90 cm tall, while the more toy-like robot, Misty II, is a mere 36 cm tall, both having faces on the interactive screen and which can be programmed with different facial expressions.
“We interviewed different wellness coaches and then programmed our robots to have a coach-like personality, with great openness and conscientiousness.”, says the co-author Minja Axelson. “The robots were programmed to have the same personality, the same facial expressions and the same voice, so the only difference between them was the physical form of the robot.”.
“It could be that since the Misty robot is more like a toy, it met your expectations.Spitale said. “But since QT is more humanoid, they expected it to behave like a human, so the participants who worked with QT were a bit disappointed.“.
“The most common response we got from participants was that their expectations about the robot did not match reality.said the teacher Hatice Guneswho led the investigation.
“We programmed the robots with a script, but the participants expected more interactivity. It is incredibly difficult to create a robot that is capable of natural conversation. New developments in large language models could be really beneficial in this regard.“, Add.
“Our perceptions of how robots should look or behave could be holding back robotics adoption in areas where they can be useful.Axelsson said.