Switzerland’s acceptance of robots
Von Agnieszka Bösch, September 29, 2022
The presence of robots in today’s world – assisting us with many tasks – is increasing. Robots are a part of our live, from the most common industrial robots working in warehouses and in production lines through social robots assisting elderly to Roomba-vacuum cleaners at home.
Industrial robots are socially accepted and broadly used in various fields: manufacturing, automotive, food industry, etc. Deployment of nonindustrial robots such as assistive robots and service robots face more challenges. This paper focuses on “Social Assistive Robots” and their social acceptance.
The robots targeted at health and elderly care have generated much discussion on robot acceptance from ethical, legal, and employment perspectives
(Oksanen, Savela & Turja, 2017)
When analysing the acceptance of robots, it is important to mention the “technology acceptance model” about individual’s acceptance towards technology. Based on this model there are “two primary factors influencing an individual’s intention to use new technology: perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness” (Charness, N. & Boot, W. R. (2016). However, nonindustrial robots interact with humans and often create interpersonal communication, sometimes even interpersonal connections. Therefore, so called Social Assistive Robots need to be not only perceived as useful and easy to use but also trusted and accepted by individuals and the society at large. Studies show that people who have experience with robots, have a more positive attitude and a more transparent view on robots, and are more likely to accept them. “People who lack real experiences with robots rely only on the social representations of robots’ attributes and qualities” (Oksanen, Savela & Turja, 2017). This may include a fear that robots will replace humans and create unemployment.
A study conducted at the university of St. Gallen, supported by Pro Senectute, showed that the elderly population in Switzerland has a mostly positive attitude towards robots. Most of the participants expressed concerns about the missing personal connection and data privacy. At the same time, however, the majority of them was interested in robots and could see themselves using robots in the future (Lehmann, Ruf, & Misoch, 2020). Respondents could see themselves using robots as an assistant to call help in an emergency situation, as a proactive reminder to take medication and do movement exercises, and monitor blood pressure, pulse, etc. Interactive robots can also provide personal assistance, such as to help prepare food, eat, get dressed, clean the flat, wash etc. Pro Senectute sees robots as a potential support to family members or a nurse so that elderly persons may stay longer in their homes.
Another place where robots are used in Switzerland are schoolrooms and universities. The forced distance-learning during COVID-19 encouraged the introduction of educational robots: “Lexi” at the University of St Gallen and “Thymio” at schools around Switzerland. Sick children had the chance to participate in classroom via “Nao”, a surrogate that allows kids at home or in hospital to exchange with their pupils in class. Even though “Nao” collaborates very well with kids with disabilities (e.g. autism, emotional and behavioural disorders), most of the kids still prefer a human-teacher in classroom because of the personal connection.
An other major area of future robot usage is medical surgery. Thanks to their features, robots are supposed to perform micro-accurate procedures on deep tissues without causing serious damage. One of the most commonly used surgical robot is called “Da Vinci”. The first one was introduced in Zurich 20 years ago. It generates a 3D image that can be rotated on 6 axes. As of 2019, Switzerland had 33 Da Vinci. For long, Da Vinci was the only robot in medical surgery. However, the market is changing and many companies, including Swiss ones such as ABB, want to expand their robot portfolio to medical surgery (NZZ, 2019).
User acceptance is essential in the adoption of robots daily life: in health care, schools and hospitals. “The experts believed that user acceptance is decisive for further implementation” (Busse, Kernebeck, Nef, Rebacz, Kickbusch & Ehlers, 2021). There are several advantages that robots offer in many areas: in the hospital they provide precision, at home they assist elderly with daily activities, at schools they support kids with learning. The usage of robots in our daily life, however, also creates concerns: First, there are legal questions with e.g. data privacy. Second, there are technical question, e.g. whether people can trust the reliability of robots. Finally and foremost, many people miss the human-touch. Concluding, “Social Assistive Robots” have started to become part of our reality because of their advantages. However, social acceptance still needs to grow among not only recipients (patients, elderly, relatives, etc.) but also professionals (teachers, sergeants, etc.).
Busse, T. S., Kernebeck, S., Nef, L., Rebacz, P., Kickbusch, I., Ehlers, J. P. (2021). Views on Using Social Robots in Professional Caregiving: Content Analysis of a Scenario Method Workshop. JMIR Publications. Accessed on 29th July 2022, from: https://www.jmir.org/2021/11/e20046/
Charness, N. & Boot, W. R. (2016). Technology Acceptance Model. Accessed on 27th July 2022 from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/technology-acceptance-model
Lehmann, S., Ruf, E. & Misoch, S. (2020). Robot Use for Older Adults – Attitudes, Wishes and Concerns. First Results from Switzerland. In Stephanidis, C., & Antona, M. (2020). HCI International 2020 – Posters. Springer. Cham, Switzerland. Accessed on 27th July 2020 from: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-3-030-50732-9.pdf
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SIPC. Accessed on 28th July 2022, from: https://www.sipc-urology.ch/traitement.php?lang=EN&id=3
SWI (2021). Accessed on 29th July 20, from: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/switzerland-gears-up-to-place-robots-in-classrooms–/46402716
Turja, T. & Oksanen, A., (2019). Robot Acceptance at Work: A Multilevel Analysis Based on 27 EU Countries. Springer Link. Accessed on27th July 2022, from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12369-019-00526-x