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Sunday, September 04, 2016

The threat of robot guards is not enough to stop people stealing | New Scientist

Photo: Aviva Rutkin
"Robots could soon take on many jobs that involve ethical interactions, such in healthcare or education - but will they command the respect we give humans?" reports Aviva Rutkin, reporter at New Scientist.

Behave or we will roll very slowly after you

Would you do what a robot told you to do? If people stealing food right under the eyes of a bot is anything to go by, RoboCop is still a long way off. In a twist on a common psychology experiment, in which a picture of a pair of eyes seems to make people behave more honestly, Guy Hoffman at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and his colleagues stationed a robot guard to watch over a table of snack food labelled with a “reserved” sign in a student common room.

The team used a mObi robot made by US robotics company Bossa Nova. This does not have a threatening appearance, like some security bots — such as the Knightscope (pictured) — but it has eyes that looked around the room. Still, it proved a poor deterrent. Seven per cent of passers-by still helped themselves to food, only slightly fewer than the 8 per cent who took food when the table wasn’t guarded at all. In contrast, only 2 per cent of people pinched a snack when a human was sitting at the table.

Hoffman is interested in finding out how people act around robots in everyday settings. “We talk about robots being in healthcare and education and the government and the military — these places where ethical behaviour is a big issue,” he says.
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Source: New Scientist

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