Workers Prefer Coaching From Toy Robots over Humanoid Instructors

According to a new study by University of Cambridge, robots can be a big assist in delivering mental health counseling as long as they don't resemble people.

The study used two well-being robot coaches in a tech consultancy company, each with the same voice, facial expressions, and coaching scripts, to learn more about how robots affect people's well-being. The first was meant to look like a toy, while the other had a human-like aspect. Each bot instructed 26 employees once every week on how to act politely.

In four weeks experiment, QT and Misty, two different robots of the same size, improved the staff's mood. With spoken dialogue (questions to recollect a happy experience) and facial emotions programmed directly onto their screens, participants participated in exercises that tapped into their enthusiasm for life experiences. With QT or Misty leading the way, participants in each session tried to develop a better self-awareness as they dug deeper into their genuine gratitude for this adventure.

Robots are thought by scientists to be a beneficial tool for enhancing mental health at work, but most research has so far only been done in laboratories. Employees had the opportunity to contact a robot for the first time at this recent session, and while they had hoped for more interaction, overall, they were happy with how things went. The WHO urges businesses worldwide to support better mental health practices but acknowledges limited resources; these cutting-edge robots can assist them more!

The results demonstrated that rather than resemble humans too much; individuals are more likely to bond with robots if they come off as nice and approachable. The study's findings support that technology can assist mental health provided the machines don't resemble people.

Participants wanted more engagement from robot coaches, researchers found under the direction of Professor Hatice Gunes at the Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology. Robots can now not interact naturally with humans due to programming challenges, but emerging advances like massive language models may help close this gap.

The survey also discovered that people preferred the robots to look non-human and approachable rather than too many like humans. It is because many individuals find it unsettling when a machine resembles a person too closely, as it may arouse sentiments of guilt or shame.

The study also found that people desire to engage and motivate robot trainers rather than information-only ones. To establish an emotional connection and develop trust, robots should also be able to react to verbal or non-verbal cues from humans appropriately. Social intelligence and technical proficiency must be considered when developing successful robot instructors.

However, other research contends that robots should have human-like characteristics to engage people emotionally. However, participants in the survey desired some level of distinctness while wanting robots to exhibit recognizable human-like characteristics, such as facial expressions and body language.

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