How Giving Voice to Healthcare Robots Influence Human Perception?


Robotics technology is no longer the industrial term. It is being accepted widely by businesses for commercial use, performing a diverse range of tasks that are complex to humans. Robots are gradually making their way into the healthcare arena, facilitating clinical assistance to doctors and patients as well as simplifying the doctor-patient engagement. Research and innovation in the area of healthcare robotics have also seen substantial growth in recent years. Such key robotic healthcare innovations include devising new care models, especially for a large and rapidly aging population, and bringing high-quality care to new and underserved markets cost-effectively.

Making robots the part of healthcare services delivery will provide an array of opportunities and benefits to medical personnel and patients alike. These include providing assistance or comfort to patients or visitors; eliminating human error in delicate, high-risk procedures, and lessening the time required for surgeries. Moreover, robots can improve patient recovery time; cut down hospital stays, and create more targeted and personalized treatments, and more.

Despite these advantages, researchers and developers need to consider users’ perspectives about robots – how they feel at ease with robots and how robots can help them. To this context, researchers from the University of Auckland and Singapore University of Technology & Design have been using speech synthesis techniques to create robots that sound more empathetic. In a recent paper published in the International Journal of Social Robotics, they presented the outcomes of an experiment exploring the effects of making use of an empathetic synthesized voice on users’ perception of robots.

As followed by TechXplore, “Our recent study is based on approximately three years of research aimed at developing a synthetic voice for health care robots,” Jesin James, one of the researchers who carried out the study said.

The speech research group at the University of Auckland and the Center for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science have been attempting to develop healthcare robots that can aid people in care homes for several years now. They have been trying to recognize voices that could make robots more acceptable in the eyes of humans they interact with.


Identifying Robot’s Voice

As part of their study, James and her colleagues tested the hypothesis that a robot’s voice can impact how users perceive it by conducting a simple experiment using a robot called Healthbot. The researchers used a professional voice artist for the robot’s voice, which was recorded while reading dialogs in two tone variations: a flat monotone and an empathetic voice.

The researchers then recruited 120 participants and asked them to share their perceptions after they had watched videos of Healthbot talking with these two different voices. They found that the vast majority of participants perceived the robot as more empathetic when it spoke using a more empathetic voice. These initial research outcomes invigorated the researchers to explore the possibility of producing a synthetic voice that reproduced the empathetic tone used by the professional voice artist.

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