A 2008 survey suggests that people aren’t interested in robots that look like humans. The survey asked people at a home and living show about robots in daily life. Botjunkie took one look at the graphs and concluded that it isn’t a good idea to design robots that look like people. What the graphs and paper do not show is that there is a range of humanoid robots, from ones that look realistic to ones that have abstract human features. The survey uses the blanket term “humanoid robot” to describe robots as different as this:
The reason why this is important is that almost half of the respondents (44%) admitted harboring fears related to robots, including that robots could replace humans someday, and the ever-popular possibility that humans would lose their jobs. In other words, if it looks like a person, talks like a person, and walks like a person, it seems much more likely that they could replace a person. Despite the fact that factory and industrial robots can in fact replace human workers, people are clearly more comfortable with them because they can’t imagine them replacing their job.
However, all is not lost for humanoid robots. The following graph of “What Should Robots Do?” reveals that people want robots that can perform a variety of household tasks. Unfortunately, it does not ask them if they would prefer to own 50 specialized robots that each do one specific job (such as the various products from iRobot), or 1 humanoid robot capable of doing all of the work (such as a hypothetical future ASIMO). After all, the whole purpose of designing a robot with the same shape as a human is so that it can do a variety of tasks in a human-centered world, and not because we are more comfortable with them for their human-like appearance.
I also wonder how people in their twilight years would respond to these questions (only 6% of respondents were over 65), since the maintenance of many home robots would be a job in and of itself.
Naturally people don’t want robots to do the jobs they feel require a human touch, such as taking care of the kids, or that are considered above mechanical work, such as cooking and driving, though paradoxically they do want robots to take care of them when they get old.
What do you think; were the survey results influenced by irrational fears, and was it perhaps a bit too vague? Or do you agree with the responses?