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Health Robots: close, but not too close

As a physiotherapist, my wife can tell patients what exercises to do but can't be sure they do them after they leave the clinic. An article in New Scientist highlights a similar situation for recovering stroke victims, which has been addressed by using talking robots to motivate and monitor them.

But a style that motivates one demotivates another. So, researchers Mataric and Tapus from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles created a robot with a personality that can be adjusted to suit the patient by making it more or less extrovert.

However, robots must not resemble us too closely. In another study, UK schoolchildren shown pictures perceived human-like robots as more aggressive. This fits with the Japanese idea of uncanny (or spooky) valley I referred to in another posting.

Enter uncanny valley on Wikipedia.

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