Social robot – Jack of all trades?
Paladyn: Journal of Behavioral Robotics
Background Social robots have been used in different roles, for example, in caregiving, companionship, and as a therapy tool, in recent years – with growing tendency. Although we still know little about factors that influence robots' acceptance, studies have shown that robots are possible social companions for humans that help overcome loneliness, among other use cases. Especially in the given situation of forced social isolation, social companions are needed. This social gap might be filled by
... robots. We hypothesized that loneliness and the need to belong increase acceptance of social robots. Methods One hundred forty participants were asked to fill out an online survey on social robots and their acceptance in society. Questions on robots, demographical factors, and external factors (lockdown length) were asked and personal traits were also assessed. Results and interpretation As expected, among other findings, loneliness of participants was positively linked to robots' acceptance. Nevertheless, need to belong was not. We conclude from these results that social robots are a possible social instrument to overcome loneliness and that interaction with a robot cannot replace belonging to a social group because robots lack needs that humans or animals have. Also, personality traits and demographic factors were linked to robots' acceptance. This means that, even though there are generalizable connections between robots' acceptance and factors as loneliness, personal traits are at least of similar importance. Discussion Our results provide important new insights into relationships between humans and robots and their limitations. Robots can ease our loneliness but are not seen as human. Future research needs to investigate factors that influence perception and acceptance of robots. Future lab-based studies with realistic human–robot interactions will deepen our insights of human understanding, perception, and acceptance of robots.