Skip to Content

What Will Your Robot Servant Look Like?

A Georgia Tech study finds that preferences for robo-servants vary by our ages and according to the chosen task.
October 2, 2013

As we inch closer to the day when we can go online and buy personal robot servants (and, perhaps, an insurrection in which these same robo-workers take over), it’s worth thinking about what these machines should look like.

Fortunately, there’s already a study with a few ideas: Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Psychology is presenting results of a study this week that explores whether two groups of people (young adults and senior citizens) prefer a robot with a more human or mechanical face, or something in between.

The results are interesting, as they reveal not just different preferences for each age group but also for the job the robot is assigned–which might offer some insights for how to design more advanced robots that people will feel comfortable using.

Researchers found that, generally, the majority of college students surveyed preferred faces that look more robotic, while older study participants gravitated toward human-like faces.

Their preferences changed somewhat depending on what the robot was helping with, though. For example, for help in making decisions (like investing), younger people preferred a face with an in-between human/robot look. The study also found that for a robot that could help with personal care (like taking a bath), people surveyed either wanted it to look very robotic to preserve their privacy or extremely human since that would make the robot seem more caring or trustworthy. Nobody seemed to care what a robot that helped with chores looked like, however.

The paper, written by graduate student Akanksha Prakash and psychology professor Wendy Rogers, is being presented at the annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in San Diego this week.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why.

And that's a problem. Figuring it out is one of the biggest scientific puzzles of our time and a crucial step towards controlling more powerful future models.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

How scientists traced a mysterious covid case back to six toilets

When wastewater surveillance turns into a hunt for a single infected individual, the ethics get tricky.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.