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Positive Responses Recorded to Contact with Robotic Nurse

Robotoc nurse (Rob Felt/Georgia Tech)

(Rob Felt/Georgia Tech)

In an early study, engineers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta found people generally had a positive response to being touched by a robotic nurse, but their perception of the robot’s intent made a significant difference in the way they responded. The team’s results are being presented at the Human-Robot Interaction Conference underway in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In the study, researchers looked at how people responded when a robotic nurse known as Cody (pictured right), touched and wiped a person’s forearm. Although Cody touched the subjects in exactly the same way, they reacted more positively when they believed Cody wanted to clean their arm versus when they believed Cody intended to comfort them.

Biomedical engineering professor Charles Kemp and his team also tested whether people responded more favorably when the robot verbally indicated that it was about to touch them versus touching them without saying anything. The results suggest that people preferred when the robot did not actually give them the warning. Doctoral student Tiffany Chen says, “We think this might be because they were startled when the robot started speaking, but the results are generally inconclusive.”

Kemp sees parallels between these findings and other studies on patients’ reactions to human nurses. “[I]n general, if people interpreted the touch of the nurse as being instrumental, as being important to the task,” notes Kemp, “then people were OK with it. But if people interpreted the touch as being to provide comfort … people were not so comfortable with that.”

Read more: Robots to Help Children With Autism

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