Perspectives on social robots. From the historic background to an experts' view on future developments
Social robots are robots interacting with humans not only in collaborative settings, but also in personal settings like domestic services and healthcare. Some social robots simulate feelings (companions) while others just help lifting (assistants). However, they often incite both fascination and fear: what abilities should social robots have and what should remain exclusive to humans? We provide a historical background on the development of robots and related machines (1), discuss examples of social robots (2) and present an expert study on their desired future abilities and applications (3) conducted within the Forum of the European Active and Assisted Living Programme (AAL). The findings indicate that most technologies required for the social robots' emotion sensing are considered ready. For care robots, the experts approve health-related tasks like drawing blood while they prefer humans to do nursing tasks like washing. On a larger societal scale, the acceptance of social robots increases highly significantly with familiarity, making health robots and even military drones more acceptable than sex robots or child companion robots for childless couples. Accordingly, the acceptance of social robots seems to decrease with the level of face-to-face emotions involved.