Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
    Robots: Are They Heroes or Villains? Psychologist Argues for a Broader Perspective

    Developmental psychologist Professor Thusha Rajendran from Heriot-Watt University challenges the binary notions of heroes and villains when it comes to robots. Instead, he encourages us to think more broadly about what robots are capable of and the positive impact they can have on society.

    Rajendran believes that human-robot interaction has the potential to be a force for good, but it requires aligning our perspectives and setting mutual goals. As a developmental psychologist, he brings specific theories from developmental psychology that can help us understand how humans and machines can interact effectively.

    One key factor in adopting robotic technologies is human acceptance and how we interact with robots. Rajendran suggests that humans negotiate through understanding each other’s points of view and building trust over time. The same principles can be applied to human-robot interactions.

    However, many people still feel hesitant about communicating with robots. According to Rajendran, this hesitancy stems from how we frame the roles of robots. Whether we see them as helpers, authorities, or companions, the categorization influences our expectations and shapes our interactions.

    Rajendran emphasizes that designing useful robots should be based on purpose rather than appearance. The National Robotarium, a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, houses various robots with different designs. The purpose of a robot should drive its design, ensuring that it can fulfill its intended functions effectively.

    In healthcare settings, where perceptions may vary among individuals, Rajendran suggests considering individual differences and designing for the largest number of people. For example, robots can be used to detect falls in older people’s homes, providing life-saving alerts when necessary. They can also monitor daily activities to ensure the well-being and safety of older individuals.

    Overall, Rajendran’s work highlights the potential of robots to bring about positive change in various domains, including healthcare. By broadening our perspectives and understanding the unique capabilities of robots, we can embrace their benefits and foster meaningful human-robot interactions.

    – Professor Thusha Rajendran from Heriot-Watt University