Do people want robots helping them at home or work? If so, are older and younger adults equally accepting of robots?
To answer these questions, researchers recruited 499 young adults (ages 18 to 44), middle-age adults (ages 45 to 64), and older adults (ages 65 to 98) to complete a survey about their perceptions of the social impact of robots, comfort with robots, and interactions with robots. Participants were instructed to think of robots as autonomous machines designed to assist people, which may or may not be human-like.
In general, participants tended to have positive to neutral perceptions of the social impact of robots, with no differences among age groups. Specifically, participants were neutral on the idea that robots would steal people’s jobs or that use of robots would boost job opportunities. Participants also tended to agree that robots help people and are useful for dangerous jobs, but they generally did not perceive robots as a danger to society.
Regarding comfort with robots, participants were generally positive about having a robot assist with work, but young adults were significantly more positive about this than older adults. Notably, all age groups were uncomfortable with the idea of having a robot care for children or elderly parents. Considering the growing desire to utilize robots to provide some basic elements of care to older adults, this finding needs to be explored further.
The greatest area of disagreement between age groups pertained to interactions with robots. All age groups tended to be wary of robots expressing emotion or becoming too human-like, but were positive to neutral on talking with, using, or being around robots. Young adults were more open to making friends with robots and depending on them, and were less anxious about using robots on the job, compared to middle-age and older adults.
Overall, adults of all ages appeared open to the idea of using robots to assist with tasks but were less comfortable with more human-like roles. Younger adults tended to be more open to robots, but this may be because they have more experience with technology. Perhaps as people have more exposure to robots, they will become more comfortable.