In collaboration with Francesca Fracasso, a researcher of the “Planning and Scheduling Technology Laboratory” (PST Lab, headed by Amedeo Cesta), at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (ISTC) of the National Research Council of Italy, we are conducting a cross-cultural investigation on people’s believes and opinions on social robots.

Illustration of a robot facing an elder woman

Social robots differ from other robots in that they are able to communicate and interact with humans. This characteristic offers great potential for the nursing care of the elderly. However, many people initially respond very sceptically and rejecting to the topic of robotics and artificial intelligence. Can you imagine owning a social robot that supports you? What tasks should it perform? Robots could provide reminders of doctor’s appointments, help you at home and perhaps even assist you in walking. Maybe you are soon going to casually chat with a social robot while he accompanies you to your physiotherapy appointment.

Demographic change will become an ever-growing problem in Germany in coming years. Already nursing homes and the health service face overload. An aging society, a lack of personnel and exploding costs are the main concerns of science, the government and the economy. An increasing number of social robots are commercially available and are bringing promising skills with them, e.g. Paro, Care-O-Bot, Sanbot and of course Pepper. But to what extent does society actually see this potential? Which direction should the development of social robot’s head in the future and what should social robots be capable of? In order to get to the root of these questions, we have developed a comprehensive questionnaire in collaboration with ISTC-CNR on the subject of “Social robots – assistance for the elderly”. In fact, the present study considers a wide age group, from 55 to 80 years old, across Europe (Italy and Germany).

First, our participants fill in a general section on sociodemographic data and their own current need for assistance. We then play a short video that provides a standard foundation of knowledge about social robots. On the basis of this video, the participants can now easily answer the second part of the questionnaire, which is about desirable and less desirable functions of a social robot and the financial spectrum of the purchase of such a system.

Elders listening to a lecture about robots.
Survey Participants in Bad Urach