Touched By a Robot: An Investigation of Subjective Responses to Robot-initiated Touch
Chen, Tiffany L.
Thomaz, Andrea L.
Kemp, Charles C.
MetadataShow full item record
By initiating physical contact with people, robots can be more useful. For example, a robotic caregiver might make contact to provide physical assistance or facilitate communication. So as to better understand how people respond to robot-initiated touch, we conducted a 2x2 between-subjects experiment with 56 people in which a robotic nurse autonomously touched and wiped the subject's forearm. Our independent variables were whether or not the robot verbally warned the person before contact, and whether the robot verbally indicated that the touch was intended to clean the person's skin (instrumental touch) or to provide comfort (affective touch). On average, regardless of the treatment, participants had a generally positive subjective response. However, with instrumental touch people responded significantly more favorably. Since the physical behavior of the robot was the same for all trials, our results demonstrate that the perceived intent of the robot can significantly influence a person's subjective response to robot-initiated touch. Our results suggest that roboticists should consider this factor in addition to the mechanics of physical interaction. Unexpectedly, we found that participants tended to respond more favorably without a verbal warning. Although inconclusive, our results suggest that verbal warnings prior to contact should be carefully designed, if used at all.