Humans can be physiologically aroused by “intimate” parts of robots such as the butt, according to a to a new study from Stanford University. Findings demonstrate that robots can untie “powerful” social responses from people. The paper will be presented at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in Japan.

Credit: Pinteres

Researchers designed an experiment, where undergraduate students were requested to touch different parts of an NAO robot, inside a private room. Their physiological arousal was measured with a skin conductance sensor that was connected to one of their hands.

Physiological arousal in the experiment included attention, alertness and awareness, said the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Other factors such as sexual arousal were not specifically emphasized by the team. NAO is a 22-inch humanoid robot, developed by the French Company Aldebaran Robotics. 

The areas of the robot were divided according to social standards of “private” human parts. The hands, arms, forehead and neck, were identified as “high accessibility areas”, while “low accessibility areas included thighs, breasts, buttocks and the genital area, said the IEEE.

Results would appear to show that touching less accessible parts of the robot such as the buttocks and genitals, generated more arousal among participants, than when touching other regions such as the hands or feet. Moreover, they took longer time to touch the first parts mentioned

Humans can psychologically confuse objects with human factions with real people

A theory proposes that robots can untie “powerful” social responses from people, which are manifested from an “inherent tendency” of treating physical media that imitate humans as real people, said researchers in the paper.

“People are not inherently built to differentiate between technology and humans. Consequently, primitive responses in human physiology to cues like movement, language and social intent can be elicited by robots just as they would by real people.” Said the study authors, according to the IEEE.

Lead author Jamy Li, who investigates the influence of dominance on how observers perceive human-robot interaction, said to the IEEE that the NAO spoke with participants and looked like a person. He suggests that further studies should investigate how humans react to “different degrees of human likeness” in robots.

He added that different levels of arousal may manifest according to the design of the robot. It appears that people tend to feel more comfortable interacting with humanoid robots that contain touch buttons on its hands, arms, and forehead. By contrast, people may appear uncomfortable if buttons are located in the eyes or buttocks.

Source: IEEE