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People see robots as human-like - study

Published: 9:57AM Wednesday October 31, 2012 Source: Fairfax

  • The face of a female robot. (Source:
    The face of a female robot. - Source:

People may treat robots like humans in the future, research shows.

University of Canterbury researchers Christoph Bartneck and Jakub Zlotowski found people's brain functions showed that they perceived robots as humans.

"Our experiment showed that we do perceive robots not as objects but more like humans, and this is based on functions of the brain that are very deep down," Bartneck said.

He said it may show how people will deal with robots in the near future.

"This probably will have the consequence that we will treat robots, to some degree, like humans," he said.

He and PhD student Zlotowski conducted a study on the "inversion effect" with images of robots at the university's human interface technology laboratory.

Zlotowski said some images were harder to recognise when tipped upside down compared with when they were shown upright.

Studies had shown the phenomenon affected images of people's faces and body postures, but not objects.

"It is not more difficult to recognise objects whether they are presented upright or upside down, but it is more difficult to recognise human body postures presented upside down than when they are upright," he said.

"Apparently, this effect is due to different processing of these two types of stimuli.

"What we investigated in our study is whether images of robots can be recognised as humans or objects.

"We expected that the more human-looking robots would exhibit a stronger inversion effect than machine-like robots.

"Interestingly, we found that despite using images of various robots, they were perceived cognitively more like humans than objects."

Zlotowski said development of technology in recent years allowed production of robots that operated in natural human environments.

It was likely that further development of technology would spur their introduction in even more contexts.

"They will be assigned more roles and become a natural part of human working and living space, as was the case with other technology like computers and mobile phones," he said.

"However, it will still take several decades before robots will be capable of behaving as depicted in sci-fi movies and books, such as Blade Runner or Wall-E."