Scientists in Italy have discovered that looking into the eyes of a robot affects the human brain. Doing so involves the decision-making ability of humans. Scientists have long known that looking into the eyes of a robot can be a disturbing experience. This realization is known in English as ‘Uncanny Valley’. But some researchers in Italy have discovered that it is not just a feeling, but its effect is strong.
A team from the Italiano di Technologia (IIT) Institute in Genoa has shown in research how looking into the eyes of a robot can affect our decisions. “Looking in the eyes is a significant social signal that we use in everyday life when we interact with people,” says Professor Agnischika Wasikowska, lead author of the research published in the journal Science Robots. Does looking into the eyes of a robot cause the same reaction in the human brain as looking into the eyes of a human?
For its research, this Italian team asked 40 people to play a video game named ‘Chicken.’ Each player had to decide whether to allow the car to collide with the vehicle in front or change course to avoid a collision. A robot was sitting in the front vehicle as to the driver.
While playing, the players had to look at the robot, which sometimes looked into their eyes and sometimes looked at the other side. For each time, the researchers collected data and recorded brain reactions using electroencephalography (EEG).
Professor Wykowska explains that our results show that the human brain also receives the robot’s gaze as a social signal and that this signal impacts our decisions, our game strategies, and our reactions.
What was the effect
Research says that the effect of making eye contact with the robot was that decisions were delayed, causing players to make prolonged decisions during the game.
These results may also have an impact on the use of robots in the future. Professor Wykowski says that when we understand that robots influence social adaptation, we can decide in which contexts they may be beneficial to humans and in which contexts they are not.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, between 2018 and 2019, sales of professional service robots increased by 32 percent and crossed $ 11 billion.