The use of “medical robots” in hospitals around the world are increasing day by day. They help in surgical procedures and increase precision in surgeries. They also reduce human errors in drug delivery. In care homes, they help to reduce loneliness of the residents.
We must have seen the Japanese Pepper robots that has a smiling face. This “emotional” robot is now available widely. But a majority of people refuse to trust robots in potential life-saving roles, despite of their technical and emotional advantages.
Though robots can not replace human doctors or nurses, but in future healthcare systems, they can play a vital role.
Scientists have investigated why some people are reluctant to trust robots. Robots that have facial expressions can contribute to the construction of a medical robot that people will trust.
Investigation has shown that people trust our facial expressions. Scientists have conducted a survey with 74 people from across the world and asked them if they would trust a robot doctor or not. Only 31% of them gave positive reply.
Scientists have looked at the facial expressions of Canbot-U03 robot. This robot is non-intimidating and it is only 40cm tall.
Scientists have done psychological research which suggested that facial expression helps to retain trustworthiness. Smiling face suggests trusting nature and angry face suggests dishonesty.
Scientists noticed, those robots which had smiling faces were trusted more. Those robots that has angry faces were not that trustworthy.
The uncanny valley
Scientists have designed a robot with human eyes. But 86% participants said they had disliked that look.
Participants wanted a robot which have a face like humans. They wanted the robot to look like a robot and not like a cyborg hybrid.
Scientists called this phenomenon the “uncanny valley”. Humans wanted robots with human likeness but only to a certain point. Beyond this point the robot looks too human and we cannot accept that.
Chest screen of the robot also works as an additional platform to increase trustworthiness. In hospitals it can be used to communicate data. But scientists think both chest screen and facial expressions are needed to be trustworthy.
Researchers have experimented with a range of distinctive modifications of both facial and chest screens. They have experimented with hand drawn faces, cyborg faces and blurry screens.
Then they asked the participants which robot is showing the answer of a complex mathematical problem. The participants have chosen the robot that which had the smiling or neutral face.
Scientists said facial expressions are important. For serious massages, we need a serious face and for general communication we need a happier face of the robot.