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When AI companions for lonely people seem a bit too human

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Think about a future by which lonely individuals can work together with social bots, based mostly on synthetic intelligence (AI), to get the conversations and connection they crave.

Whereas it sounds intriguing, a small preliminary examine suggests individuals will not be comfy with AI companions that look and discuss an excessive amount of like actual people.

“We think it may seem a little too creepy to have these embodied robots that act and look almost human,” mentioned Kelly Merrill Jr., lead creator of the examine and a doctoral scholar in communication at The Ohio State University.

“People seemed to be more comfortable with AI companions that were voice-based, more like smartphones and smart speakers like Alexa or Siri.”

Merrill carried out the examine with Jihyun Kim of the University of Central Florida and Chad Collins of St. Johns River State Faculty. Their outcomes have been revealed not too long ago within the journal Communication Research Studies.

The researchers have been enthusiastic about studying extra in regards to the function that the social presence and heat of AI companions have on individuals’s views of them.

The examine concerned 106 faculty college students who participated on-line. The scholars have been solely instructed the examine was aimed toward understanding their perceptions about expertise.

They watched a 5-minute clip that the researchers edited from an episode of the tv present Black Mirror. Whereas the main focus of the particular episode (“Be Right Back”) was considerably totally different, the edited clip was designed to indicate a lonely lady, named Martha, speaking to an AI companion named Ash.

Some members watched a clip by which Martha interacted with Ash solely by voice. Others watched a clip by which Ash was represented as a realistic-looking robotic that talked and interacted with Martha.

After watching the clip, members have been requested whether or not they thought an AI companion like Ash could be helpful to lonely people, and whether or not they would suggest Ash to lonely individuals.

Members rated Ash on social presence, which is how a lot he appeared like he was actually with them. Ash was additionally rated on heat, which was outlined as the sensation of friendliness and intimacy.

One speculation may very well be that folks would really like an AI companion that scored excessive on social presence, and that acted extra like a human would, Merrill mentioned.

However on this examine, that was solely the case for the model of Ash that appeared simply by voice. Members who noticed this model have been extra prone to suggest Ash as a companion in the event that they rated it greater on social presence.

However those that seen Ash as an precise human-looking robotic weren’t extra prone to suggest Ash in the event that they thought he had extra social presence.

The examine did not ask members why, however the researchers imagine it needed to do with what scientists name the “uncanny valley.”

“People become uneasy when they see robots that come close to seeming human, but are slightly off,” Merrill mentioned.

“In the clips, the actor playing the robot version of Ash did a good job of seeming slightly mechanistic and not quite human. It creeps people out, and that may be why more social presence in the embodied Ash didn’t make people more likely to recommend the bot for lonely people.”

The examine discovered that members’ views of how heat Ash appeared—his friendliness and intimacy—had no impact on whether or not they would suggest him to lonely individuals. That was true no matter whether or not they seen the robot model of Ash, or the voice model.

“It may be that people think an AI companion for lonely people would be good for casual conversation, but should not be a replacement for a more intimate and deep friendship,” Merrill mentioned.

Merrill famous that this was a preliminary investigation and rather more work must be carried out on the interplay of social presence, heat and AI companions. However this work suggests individuals proper now desire the acquainted.

“We already talk to disembodied AI through our smartphones and smart speakers, so we are used to that and comfortable with those kinds of interactions,” he mentioned.

Could a virtual companion soothe social anxiety?

Extra data:
Kelly Merrill et al, AI companions for lonely people and the function of social presence, Communication Research Studies (2022). DOI: 10.1080/08824096.2022.2045929

When AI companions for lonely individuals appear a bit too human (2022, April 18)
retrieved 18 April 2022

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