Trash-talking robot really bums humans out

CNET Technology 3 weeks ago

Words can sting, even if they don't come from another human.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania took the friendly humanoid Pepper robot and turned it into a Debbie Downer for a study on how humans react to robo-insults.

Forty participants played a video game while the robot tossed out either discouraging comments or encouraging comments. The negative sayings were all PG, like "I have to say you are a terrible player" or "Over the course of the game your playing has become confused."

The researchers discovered that game scores suffered when the robot said unkind things. 

"This is one of the first studies of human-robot interaction in an environment where they are not cooperating," Carnegie Mellon assistant professor Fei Fang, co-author of the study, said Tuesday in a release.

The study highlights the complexity of human interactions with robots, including companion machines like Pepper. The study had a small sample size, but Fang is interested in delving deeper into the subject, which could include looking at whether people react differently to humanoid robots than to non-humanoid ones. 

At least now we know you wouldn't want to invite Bender from Futurama over for a gaming session.

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