Robots ‘offer effective intervention in combatting loneliness and negative emotions’
4 Dec 2023
‘Social’ robots employed during the pandemic to overcome isolation were able to help individuals struggling with isolation, stress and other difficult emotions, claims a new study.
University of Glasgow-led research funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, suggested such technologies could be used in similar situations, said representative Professor Emily Cross.
The Honorary Professor at the university, also a full Professor at ETH Zürich said: “We’re really excited by the findings of our new study, which sets the stage for using social robots as conversation partners in future.”
The original study featured 39 individuals talking online to social robot Pepper on Zoom video for 10 times over a five week period.
Over the period the sample of individuals tended to speak for longer periods and disclose more information about their condition, reporting improvements in mood and less feeling of isolation. Secondary data analysis from the study and published at the 2023 32nd IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, revealed introverts or people with negative emotions were more likely to open up when speaking to a social robot, said the researchers.
Affiliated Research Associate at the University of Glasgow and Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, Dr Guy Laban, said that recent advances in AI such as large language models (LLMs) including Chat GPT, meant such studies were crucial to realising the potential benefits of social robots.
“It is exciting to see how this technology can be used for social good, providing meaning and a safe space to those in need. When conducting the experiment during the pandemic, we observed how a robot could lift people's mood amid very dark and isolated times, ” he said.