“Good” robots in movies can help elderly accept them at home

Wellington, March 10 (IANS) Remembering human-like robots seen in movies can help older adults ward off “robot anxiety” as they deal with the machines helping them at home, an Indian-origin researcher has said.

“Older adults who recalled more robots portrayed in films had lower anxiety toward robots than seniors who remembered fewer robot portrayals,” said S Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University.

Increasingly, people are talking about smart homes and health care facilities and the roles robots could play to help the ageing process.

“Robots could provide everything from simple reminders — when to take pills, for example — to fetching water and food for people with limited mobility,” Sundar added.

The findings, presented at the Human-Robot Interaction conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Wednesday, suggest that “robot anxiety” may influence older adults’ perception of how easy it is to operate robots and their intentions of buying a robot.

“Finding ways to ease anxiety about robot adoption could help them accept robots as caregivers,” the authors added.

The researchers conducted a survey of 379 older adults aged 60 to 86.

They were asked to list up to three films they remembered watching that featured a robot.

The most recalled robots included robots from films like “Bicentennial Man”, “Forbidden Planet”, “I, Robot,” “Lost In Space,” “Star Wars; The Terminator,” “Transformers” and “Wall-E”.

The effect seemed to hold even when older adults recalled robots that were not friendly human-like helper robots.

According to the researchers, people also had a more positive reaction to robots that looked more human-like and ones that evoked more sympathy.

“The more sympathetic the participants felt toward the robot — for example, the robot in ‘Wall-E’ — the more positive they felt toward robots,” noted Sundar.

Robot designers may want to incorporate features that remind older adults of robots in the media, the team added.

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