Touched By a Robot, Not Exactly Thrilled
In a study done at the Georgia Institute of Technology (starring Cody, the robot nurse), researchers discovered that human reaction to robotic touch hinges largely on perceived intent. When Cody swabbed participants' arms in a manner perceived as serviceable, people were fine with it. When he touched them for comfort, not so much.
The findings actually mirror one from previous studies done with human nurses. Lead researcher Charlie Kemp notes that patients in those studies were similarly unhappy to be touched in a comforting manner.
Small stuff? Yes and no. As robots become more intelligent and their presence more ubiquitous, we need to figure out what mannerisms will make coexistence as smooth as possible.
As Kemp puts it, "Primarily people have been focused on how can we make the robot safe, how can we make it do its task effectively. But that's not going to be enough if we actually want these robots out there helping people in the real world."