A new study concluded that people can have their emotional needs filled by robots. A new study concluded that people can have their emotional needs filled by robots. A new study concluded that people can have their emotional needs filled by robots. (Photo: Borkin Vadim/Shutterstock)

Who needs people when you've got robots?

New study shows robots can fulfill our emotional needs as effectively as humans.

Futurists believe that robots will soon play a significant role in our everyday lives, and while the prospect of this might evoke visions of a world filled with fraught interpersonal relationships, there's some good news: The robots are capable of filling the emotional void.

According to a new study carried out in partnership with three American universities – Rochester, Northwestern and Cornell – researchers at IDC University in Herzliya, Israel found that humans can actually have their emotional needs satisfied by robots.

This conclusion was arrived at following two studies in which participants recounted a personal experience to a small desktop robot. For half the participants, the robot responded with positive gestures and sympathetic on-screen text. The other half interacted with an unresponsive robot, who looked "alive" but did not respond with body language, and who used generic text to acknowledge that it was listening.

"We found that people who interacted with a responsive robot (a) felt more positive about the robot; (b) had more desire to use the robot as a companion in stressful situations (e.g., visiting the dentist); and (c) their body language exhibited more approach [sic] behaviors towards the robot (e.g., leaning, smiling, and eye contact)," wrote the study's author, Professor Gurit Birnbaum of IDC Herzliya.

Additionally, participants who interacted with the responsive robot and then underwent a stress-generating task (introducing oneself to potential romantic partners) were more confident.

So will we all become alienated from one another and turn to robots for comfort? Only time will tell, but in the meantime it definitely can't hurt keeping one around the house for emotional support.

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