Humans are endowed with extraordinary gifts. We have the ability to make decisions – to actually look into a problem and solve it – and make judgments based on conscience, which is, by all means, the driving force of morality. Many experts contend that, in dealing with artificial intelligence, humans don’t have the ability to empathize. But researchers at the University of Duisburg Essen recently found out that human beings can, in fact, identify with a robot’s feelings.
In a study conducted by the team, around 14 volunteers were shown a video of a small robot dinosaur petted by a human representative. The representative then proceeded to treat the cute robot harshly by grabbing its tail upwards and choking it with plastic and wire. Surprisingly, based on the fMRI scans, the test revealed that volunteers indeed felt bad when the robot was wronged. This could help prove that humans can actually connect to robots emotionally.
Explaining the goal of the test, lead researcher Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten says, “One goal of current robotics research is to develop robotic companions that establish a long-term relationship with a human user, because robot companions can be useful and beneficial tools. They could assist elderly people in daily tasks and enable them to live longer autonomously in their homes, help disabled people in their environments, or keep patients engaged during the rehabilitation process.”