Why your grandfather hates self-reliant robots at home

New York, Feb 2 (IANS) Senior citizens are likely to accept robots as dish washers and entertainment providers but are wary of giving up too much control to the machines, say researchers.

Based on a study of senior citizens, the researchers found that negative and positive notions about robots shape the senior adults’ comfort level with the machines.

“When interfaces are designed to be almost human-like in their autonomy, seniors may react to them with fear, skepticism and other negative emotions,” said S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University.

“But, with those considerations in mind, there are actually several areas where older people would accept robot help,” he added.

The participants indicated they saw robots as useful in three aspects of their lives: physical, informational and interactional.

They felt most comfortable with robots as helpers and butlers, according to Sundar.

Older adults also seemed more likely to accept robots that provide them information and entertainment, according to the researchers.

Seniors, however, may be less likely to use robots that are designed to be more autonomous. An autonomous robot can make its own decisions and may not need to wait for a senior’s commands to engage in a task.

“It is clear that senior citizens want robots to play passive and non-confrontational roles,” noted Sundar, also co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State.

Seniors do not mind having robots as companions but they worry about the potential loss of control over social order to robots.

These attitudes on control may reflect how the media influences perceptions of robots.

“A lot depends on the mental models that people have about robots and these can include how robots are portrayed by mainstream media,” said Sundar.

“The bottom line is that these portrayals shape their view of robots even though most people have never used a robot,” he added.

As artificial intelligence and robotics are becoming more accepted, the findings may help better explore how robots and computers are best used in society.

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