FURHAT, A RO­BOT WITH THE HU­MAN TOUCH, WANTS TO HEAR YOUR WOES

The Witness - - FEATURES -

FURHAT tilts its head, smiles, ex­udes em­pa­thy and warmth, and en­cour­ages us to open up.

The ro­bot, a three-di­men­sional bust with a pro­jec­tion of a hu­man-like face, aims to build on our new­found ease talk­ing to voice as­sis­tants like Siri and Alexa by per­suad­ing us to in­ter­act with it as if it were a per­son, pick­ing up on our cues to strike up a rap­port.

Yet pre­cisely be­cause it isn’t hu­man, and is there­fore free from bias, the ro­bot can spur peo­ple to be more hon­est, its cre­ator says, mak­ing it use­ful in sit­u­a­tions such as screen­ing for health risks where peo­ple of­ten lie.

“We’ve seen re­search that shows that in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions peo­ple are more com­fort­able talk­ing about dif­fi­cult is­sues with a ro­bot than with a hu­man,” said Samer Al Moubayed, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Furhat Ro­bot­ics.

That’s be­cause a ro­bot’s per­son­al­ity can mir­ror the per­son­al­ity of the per­son in­ter­act­ing with it and be­cause peo­ple don’t feel judged, he added.

The ro­bot has been used in Frank­furt Air­port as a mul­ti­lin­gual concierge, help­ing trav­ellers find their way, and also for cus­tomer ser­vices train­ing. Science and tech­nol­ogy firm Merck and Furhat Ro­bot­ics re­cently un­veiled a ro­bot in Stock­holm which will ask peo­ple about their health and life­style, and screen for dis­ease risk. If nec­es­sary, the ro­bot will ad­vise them to go to a doc­tor. — Reuters.

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