Older adults' fears that companion robots will negatively affect young people may create design challenges for developers hoping to build robots for older users, according to Penn State researchers.
Companion robots provide emotional support for users and interact with them as they, for example, play a game, or watch a movie.
Older adults reported in a study that while they were not likely to become physically and emotionally dependent on robots, they worried that young people might become too dependent on them, said T. Franklin Waddell, a doctoral candidate in mass communications. Those surveyed also indicated that although they were not worried about being negatively affected by robots, the adults would still resist using the devices.
"We've seen this type of effect, which is usually referred to as a third-person effect, with different types of media, such as video games and television, but this is the first time we have seen the effect in robotics," said Waddell. "According to a third person effect, a person says they are not as negatively affected by the media as other people."
The researchers, who presented their findings today (April 30) at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, said this effect could eventually lead to changes in behavior. For instance, people who believe video games harm young people may tend to avoid the games themselves. Likewise, older adults who believe that companion robots could harm young people may tend to avoid robots.
To compensate for the effect, robot designers may need to consider adding controls that will help adults monitor the use of robots by children, said Waddell, who worked with S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, and Eun Hwa Jung, a doctoral candidate in mass communications.
"Robot designers and developers look at older adults as a central user base for
|Contact: Matthew Swayne|