Could Robots be Counselors?
Plymouth, USA: New research has shown for the first time that a social robot can deliver a 'helpful' and 'enjoyable' motivational interview (MI) - a counseling technique designed to support behaviour change.
MI is a technique that involves the counselor supporting and encouraging someone to talk about their need for change, and their reasons for wanting to change.
Led by the School of Psychology in the University of Plymouth, the study opens gates to vast possibilities. The study also showed that the robot achieved a fundamental objective of MI as it encouraged participants, who wanted to increase their physical activity, to articulate their goals and dilemmas aloud.
The role of the interviewer in MI is mainly to evoke a conversation about change and commitment, and the NAO robot (Nao is an autonomous, programmable humanoid robot) was programmed with a set script designed to elicit ideas and conversation on how someone could increase their physical activity.
When finished answering each question, the participant taped the top of NAO's head to continue, with some sessions lasting up to an hour.
Lead academic Professor Jackie Andrade explained that, because they are perceived as nonjudgmental, robots may have advantages over more humanoid avatars for delivering virtual support for behavioral change.
(Source: Materials provided by University of Plymouth)