Scientists studying how humans interact with robots have discovered that touching a robot in intimate areas elicited the same physiological arousal that humans evoke in each other.
In the Stanford University study a robot –which is described as appearing somewhere between C-3PO and Wall-E – was programmed to ask participants to touch 13 parts of its body, which included its ears and butt.
Participants were fitted with an sensor on their fingers that measured skin conductance – a measure of physiological arousal – and reaction time of the participant.
The scientists found that when participants were instructed to touch the robot in areas that people usually do not touch, like the butt, they were more emotionally aroused than they were when touching more accessible body parts like the hands and neck.
“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,” said Stanford University’s Jamy Li. “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.”
Touch has been an underexamined aspect of human-to-robot relationships.
However, a large body of research in communication shows how touch builds relationships and influences trust in people. Until now not as much has been known about touch between a person and a robot.
Prior to the study, the researchers believed that humans’ response to robots would be to look at them as a friendly, non-threatening computers, but the findings show that humans respond to robots in the same way they do to other humans.
The study’s findings contradict Dr Ian Perason’s claims that sex with robots will become commonplace by 2050 as “love and the act of sex” become separated.
In the Stanford study, the researchers noted that “physiological arousal was inversely related to body accessibility” as it is in humans.