The United Nations (UN), in a recent robotics survey, identified personal
service robots as having the highest expected growth rate (UN, 2002).
These robots help the elderly (Hirsch et al., 2000), support humans in
the house (NEC, 2001), improve communication between distant partners
(Gemperle, DiSalvo, Forlizzi, & Yonkers, 2003) and are research vehicles
for the study on human-robot communication (Breazeal, 2003; Okada, 2001).
A survey of relevant characters is available (Bartneck, 2002; Fong, Nourbakhsh,
& Dautenhahn, 2003).
It appears that different cultures have a different exposure to robots
through media or through personal experience. The number of humanoids
robots, toy robots, games and TV shows give Japan the leading role in
robotic development and culture. However, the typical “robots will take
over the world” scenario that is so often used in western culture (Cameron,
1984; Wachowski & Wachowski, 2003) is less present in Japan. Yamamoto
(1983) hypothesized that Confucianism might have had an influence on the
positive development of robot culture in Japan. In the popular Japanese
Manga movies good fights evil just like in the western world, but the
role of the good and the evil is not mapped directly to humans as being
the good against robots being the evil. In these movies the good and the
evil are distributed. You might have a good robot that fights an evil
human villain or a good robot fighting bad robots.
If we are to employ more and more robots in daily life it appears necessary
to study what attitude the users have towards robots, which of course
depend on culture.
Computer anxiety prevents users from using computers and educational psychologists
have studied its effects in great detail (Raub, 1981). However, the effects
of robot anxiety are still largely unknown. With an increasing number
of robots, robot anxiety might become as important as computer anxiety
In contradiction to the popular believe that Japanese love robots our
results show that the Japanese are concerned with the impact that robots
might have on society. A possible explanation could be that through the
high exposure to robots, the Japanese are more aware of robots abilities
and also their lack of abilities.
Participants from the USA were least negative towards robots, in particular
on the aspect of interacting with them. A possible reason could be that
they are used to technology and at the same time easy going when it comes
to talking to new people. Another striking difference can be found when
looking at the ratings of the Mexican participants. They were most negative
towards robots, in particular towards interacting with them. This is surprising,
since they are a neighbor state of the USA which were least concerned.
The prior experience that the participants had with robots, such as a
personal interaction with a robot, was not assessed by the NARS questionnaire.
This experience might have an influence on the results and we are currently
preparing to administer the questionnaire to owners of the Sony’s robotic
dog Aibo. In addition, we are planning to conduct the experiment in other
eastern and western countries.
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