Robots 'may be treated like humans' in future

22:38, Oct 28 2012
Jakub Zlotowski
EXPERIMENTING: University of Canterbury researcher Jakub Zlotowski with a robot.

People may treat robots like humans in the future, new research has shown.

University of Canterbury researchers Christoph Bartneck and Jakub Zlotowski found people's brain functions showed they perceived robots as humans.

"Our experiment showed that we do perceive robots not as objects, but more like humans and this is based on functions of the brain that are very deep down," Bartneck said.

Bartneck said it may show how people will deal with robots in the near future.

"This probably will have the consequence that we will treat robots, to some degree, like humans," Bartneck said.

He and PhD student Zlotowski conducted a study on the "inversion effect" with images of robots at the university's human interface technology laboratory.


Zlotowski said certain types of images were harder to recognise when tipped upside down compared to when they are shown upright. Previous studies showed that this phenomenon affects images of people's faces and body postures, but not objects.

''It is not more difficult to recognise objects whether they are presented upright or upside down, but it is more difficult to recognise human body postures presented upside down than when they are upright. Apparently, this effect is due to different processing of these two types of stimuli," he said.

"What we investigated in our study, is whether images of robots can be recognised as humans or objects. We expected that that the more human looking robots would exhibit stronger inversion effect than machine-like robots.

"Interestingly, we found that despite using images of various robots they were perceived cognitively more like humans than objects.''

Zlotowski said development of technology in recent years allowed production of robots that were not just operating in factories or laboratories, but in natural human environments.

It was highly likely that further development of technology would spur their introduction in even more contexts, he said.

"They will be assigned more roles and become a natural part of human working and living space as was the case with other technology like computers and mobile phones."

"However, it will still take several decades before robots will be capable of behaving as depicted in sci-fi movies and books, such as Blade Runner or Wall-E.''

The Press