Older adults anticipate their relationships with ‘helper’ robots: study

click to enlargeHow older adults (65+) respond to the idea of ‘helper robots’ which may be a part of their future lives span a wide range. The key seems to be that they are ‘most advanced, yet acceptable’ (designer Raymond Loewy’s MAYA dictum) when they perform passive ‘physical, informational and interactional’ tasks–‘helpers and butlers’ in the researchers’ terms. Robots which kick it up a notch and are more autonomous, making its own decisions without direction, are far less acceptable and perceived as ‘robot masters’. “Seniors do not mind having robots as companions, but they worry about the potential loss of control over social order to robots.” That is a leap that goes forward, in the lead researcher’s terms, to how the media has portrayed robots as shaping older adults’ perceptions. A team from Penn State University’s Media Effects Research Laboratory surveyed 45 older adults — between ages 65 and 95 years old — at a senior citizens’ center in Pennsylvania. Published in the Interaction Studies journal. Penn State News Hat tip to our former Northern Ireland Contributing Editor Toni Bunting. On the other end of the age spectrum, an earlier study by the same lead researcher noted that older people were quite concerned about the effects of robots on young people and the desire for parental controls, lest the robots might encourage laziness and dependency. Penn State News (2014)

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