Are we humans a kind of robot?

Humans and robots: how does the dream team succeed?

With the use of autonomous technologies, the relationship between man and machine is also increasingly coming into focus. But how should the steel colleagues look and behave so that working with them is pleasant for the employees? For the success of human-robot cooperation in the workplace, not only the objective, but also the subjectively experienced safety of the employees must be taken into account.

Robotics and artificial intelligence are topics full of fascination and innovative strength, but at the same time also connected with fears and not that easy from the point of view of psychology. According to a study by the European Commission (pdf), people are particularly skeptical when robots are to be used in social areas such as childcare or care for the elderly. In contrast, there are higher acceptance values ​​for their use in manufacturing, security, cleaning or medicine.

By 2019: robot doubling

The world robotics association IFR (International Federation of Robotics) forecast in its 2016 annual report that 2.6 million robots will be working in industry worldwide by 2019: that would be almost double that of today. The association defines the interface between man and machine as one of the most important challenges, even as a decisive element in the market. Anyone who builds robots that not only perform their tasks efficiently, but that are also user-friendly, communicative and personable, will win in the long run.

Some robotics are of the opinion that harmonious cooperation is most easily achieved with machines that look more or less like humans and also behave similarly. After all, most work environments have been created for the human body so that human-like robots would find their way around them very well. A second common argument is that communication between humans and humanoids is particularly intuitive, as no new interaction mode has to be learned. You could just talk to the robot and interpret its facial expressions and gestures as if it were a human.

Predictability is important for teamwork

From the point of view of psychological research, however, the development of all-too-human robots is risky. Highly humanoid machines in particular often evoke rejection: when we can no longer spontaneously classify whether our counterpart is human or machine, when we cannot assess what to expect from the creature, how intelligent it is, whether it obeys the rules of the Often even a feeling of horror arises.

We do it easier with robots that remain clearly recognizable as machines. This is of course a potential advantage for the classic industrial robot, which with its swivel arms and metallic surfaces leaves little doubt about its machine character. Nevertheless, there are a few things to consider here too - and again it's about predictability. Being able to make a prognosis about the goal a cooperation partner is pursuing and what action he will take in the next step is essential for good teamwork.

Efficient is what is pleasant

In a laboratory experiment (pdf) at Carnegie Mellon University, a café situation was simulated in which a robot processes drinks orders together with test subjects. The robot handed its partners various drinking vessels in an unknown order. The test subjects then had to add the appropriate ingredient, such as a tea bag. It turned out that the working time required was not the shortest when the robot reached for the next cup in a loss-free flight, but when the arm movements of the robot were curved and in this way it was easy to predict where the robot would reach next . The type of movement optimized for human perception was not only the efficiency winner, but was also rated by the test persons as by far the most pleasant.

The influence of subjective feelings on the workflow must never be underestimated. In human-robot collaboration, personal well-being depends, among other things, on proactive signals from the robot. The better he shows people around him what he is up to, the more trust they can show.

Dr. Martina Mara[email protected]