Robots have historically been designed to serve, be it in industrial, military, medical or other settings.
Emerging now is a new category of robot: Social.
Features of Social Robots
Social robots, designed specifically to interact and form emotional bonds with humans, are no longer simply a common theme in science fiction. Technical advances in several sectors have come together in the development of these companions: Facial recognition and affect analysis, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, camera vision and computer conversational developments paramount are among them.
The December 2019 edition of Scientific American identified Social Robots as one of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2019. These were suggested as “world-changing technologies that are poised to rattle the status quo.”
According to Scientific American, “Like most robots, social robots use artificial intelligence to decide how to act on information received through cameras and other sensors. The ability to respond in ways that seem lifelike has been informed by research into such issues as how perceptions form, what constitutes social and emotional intelligence, and how people can deduce others’ thoughts and feelings. Advances in AI have enabled designers to translate such psychological and neuroscientific insights into algorithms that allow robots to recognize voices, faces and emotions; interpret speech and gestures; respond appropriately to complex verbal and nonverbal cues; make eye contact; speak conversationally; and adapt to people’s needs by learning from feedback, rewards and criticisms.”
Social Robots in Assisted Living
Benefits of social robots are being demonstrated already, specifically with people in the assisted living setting. Conversation, empathy, and affection are showing positive effects on health indirectly, while direct health assistance, such as medication reminders and symptom detection, are concrete. But it isn’t difficult to look past assisted care and into the general population for consumers of this technology: The potential for these robots in our increasingly isolated modern society is limitless.
Market Potential of Social Robots
The global social robotic market generated $279 million in sales in 2019 and is anticipated to grow to $643 million in 2025, growing 15.6% annually.
While the market is projected to grow quite a bit, both investors and companies pursuing the development and sale of social robots should carefully review the potential risks involved, along with the potential rewards.