Touching robots arouses humans

Study: Humans Aroused By Touching A Robot’s ‘Intimate Places’

Research has shown that touching a robot in “intimate places” can induce physiological arousal in humans, much like the arousal experienced when touching a human in the same body areas.

Scientists from Stanford University ran an experiment where a small, humanoid robot spoke to participants, asking them to touch it in 13 different body areas with their dominant hand while keeping their other hand on a sensor. This included what they termed “low accessibility” regions like the buttocks.

As reported by Newsweek, the team then tested the participants’ reactions and noted the different responses, depending on which body part was touched. Reportedly, the instructions were met with a mixture of hesitancy and physiological arousal on the part of the human participants.

The methodology and results of the experiment will be presented at the 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in Fukuoka, Japan, recently, where scientists explained the procedure they followed in the study.

The researchers said they used an Aldebaran Robotics’ NAO humanoid robot, which gave the participants a series of instructions to follow.

Each person went through 26 trials, during which each participant was told to touch a specific area of the robot’s body. After each step, the robot taught them the scientific names used to describe that particular area of its anatomy.

As reported by the International Business Times, as each participant touched a certain body part on the robot, the scientists measured their response time and skin conductance, a measure of the physiological arousal caused by the action, which is defined as a change in the body due to an emotionally-charged stimuli.

When it came to touching a more intimate body part on the robot, for instance the buttocks, scientists noted the response time by the participant was longer, suggesting they were more shy and hesitant to touch the robot’s intimate parts. The researchers also noted increased skin conductance response, which showed a higher level of physiological arousal.

The experiment can be viewed in the video included below.

While the experiment might, to most of us, sound a little strange and unnecessary, reportedly the studies are being conducted to get a better understanding of how humans perceive robotic counterparts. The act of touching is considered to be a type of “social glue,” or meaningful interaction, between parties, which contributes to building trust and relationships.

By running these experiments with human participants touching the robot and learning how they react, this can help designers of humanoid robots understand how best these robots can interact with humans.

Jamy Li, a co-author of the study, said, “Our work shows that robots are a new form of media that is particularly powerful. It shows that people respond to robots in a primitive, social way.”

“Social conventions regarding touching someone else’s private parts apply to a robot’s body parts as well. This research has implications for both robot design and theory of artificial systems.”

According to the researchers, this study opens up the possibility of robots being able to offer humans emotional support, as well as sexual relationships between humans and robots.

They concluded that “social robots can elicit tactile responses in human physiology, a result that signals the power of robots, and should caution mechanical and interaction designers about positive and negative effects of human-robot interactions.”

As recently reported by the Inquisitr, a Hong Kong resident recently built a scarily lifelike and realistic robot that looks very much like Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson. Ricky Ma is hoping that an investor will buy his robot, giving him the funds he needs to make more humanoid robots.

[Photo screengrab via YouTube]

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