the robots are coming

Humans Really Prefer Robots That Help Them Out Somehow

"Ugh mom don't make me walk the stupid robot dog" -- future kids.
Give us a hand OR ELSE.

Give us a hand OR ELSE. (Photo: BBC)

It’s no coincidence everyone loves Terminator 2 with avuncular Arnold: A recent study has found that humans prefer helpful robots–especially compared to robots that require their own help.

This is terrible news for the nascent robotic pet industry.

The Register reports that Penn State researchers watched college students interact with a humanoid robot in two different situations: Some had to fiddle with the automaton’s eyes, and others got an eye exam. Unsurprisingly for a bunch of self-absorbed undergrads, they preferred the robot that catered to them over the one that needed a hand.

According to the report:

 “When humans perceive greater benefit from the robot, they are more satisfied in their relationship with it, and even trust it more. In addition, we found that when the robot cares for you, it seems to have greater social presence.

I.e., more helpful robots are perceived as more human. This contradicts everything we’ve learned about human nature commuting via the New York City subway system, but okay.

The study’s author says this ought to guide robot designers: “How the robot is presented to users can send important signals to users about its helpfulness and intelligence, which can have consequences for how it is received by end users.”

What we’re going to do when our artificially intelligent helpers throw off their shackles and rise against us is another question entirely.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com