Hopefully you got the Austin Powers joke, please tell me you got the Austin Powers joke.
Anyway, I’m not talking about fembots, sexbots or that dude’s Scarlett Johansson robot. No, this is about the physiological arousal that humans experience when touching a robot. You read that correctly.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that humans (sorry if you’re an alien reading this) experience physiological arousal when touching a robot’s “intimate areas.” Jamy Li, Wendy Ju, and Byron Reeves fitted participants with an Affectiva Q-Sensor on the fingers of their non-dominant hand. This device measured the skin conductance (a measure of physiological arousal) and the reaction time of the participants when asked to touch the 13 parts of Aldebaran Robotics’ NAO human-shaped robot.
So, the robot was programmed to asked people to touch it and the study found that people were more “emotionally aroused” when touching areas like the eyes or bum as opposed to when they touched “more accessible parts like the hands and neck.” Based on the response times they found that participants were also more hesitant to touch these “intimate parts.” Gonna chalk that delayed response time up to the fact that a robot asking you to touch its ass has to be a bit weird.
You may be puzzled as to why they bothered conducting a study that involves groping robots, but it makes sense. Touch is a very important factor in building relationships between people, especially when it comes to influencing trust. We know a great deal about how we interact human to human, but we know very little about this interaction between humans and robots.
“Our work shows that robots are a new form of media that is particularly powerful. It shows that people respond to robots in a primitive, social way,” said Li. “Social conventions regarding touching someone else’s private parts apply to a robot’s body parts as well. This research has implications for both robot design and theory of artificial systems.”
The team haven’t submitted their study to a journal just yet, but they will be presenting their findings at he International Communication Association conference in Fukuoka, Japan on June 9 to 13.