Last year, the American Psychological Association published an interesting cover story on the future of robots in our world as social beings and the psychology behind this technology. The article proposes the inevitability of these robots existence in the near future, and well as the need of humans to see these robots as “someone’s rather than something’s”.
Their applications are diverse: social robot prototypes are beginning to show up in customer service, education, and even places as fundamentally human as companionship and therapy assistant roles. In many ways these robots provide benefits to our way of life; we can program them with human tendencies to provide human interaction. However, this same benefit could be problematic. If we replace people with robots, are we limiting or removing real human interaction altogether?
I think that as designers we have to be aware of this fine line when making social robots. Ideally these devices should benefit humans without any drawbacks. Of course this is a romanticized goal, but I do think we can take considerable measures to ensure the safety of these robots for human use. We should test often, consider the user experience, and set guidelines and regulations for how these robot should be implemented. The inevitability of their existence is a sure thing; making sure they’re safe should be too.