Researchers at Georgia Tech have realized that older adults now demand robots that not only do vacuuming but also perform many critical monitoring tasks which do not require much interaction.
The researchers found that older adults are more amenable than younger ones to having a robot "perform critical monitoring tasks that would require little interaction between the robot and the human."
Robots can perform routine tasks such as cleaning and studies have found that individuals think of robots as advanced appliances.
However, robots could perform more critical tasks, such as reminding a person to take medications, teaching a new skill, providing security, and reducing social isolation.
Thus, to check how willing people might be to have a robot perform these kinds of more interactive tasks, researchers sent a questionnaire to 2,500 Atlanta-area adults aged 18 to 86 and received 177 responses.
One of their questions addressed respondents' level of experience with technology and robots that do things like mow, clean, guard, and entertain.
Older adults (ages 65 to 86) had significantly less experience with technology than younger ones (18-28), but younger adults had only slightly more experience with robots currently on the market.
When asked about their willingness to have robots perform 15 tasks in the home (categorized as entertainment, service, educational, and general health/self-care), respondents of all ages preferred that robots stick to noninteractive tasks (such as "Help me with housework" or "Bring me things I need from another room in my home") rather than interactive ones (for example, "Have a conversation with me" or "Help motivate me to exercise").
Infrequent critical tasks, such as "Warn me about a danger in my home" or "Inform my doctor if I have a medical emergency," were seen by more older adults than younger ones as important for robots to perform.
The researchers say their results "suggest that both younger and older individuals are more interested in the benefits that a robot can provide than in their interactive abilities."
In addition, the results discredit the stereotype that older adults would be less willing than younger ones to accept new technology such as a robot in their home.
The findings will be presented at the upcoming HFES 53rd Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, Texas.