Despite our best efforts, robots aren’t quite the most empathetic objects out there—they're just machines, after all. Still, have you ever looked at our mechanical friends and thought it looked like it needed a hug or some help? As it turns out, you can feel empathy for more than just other humans—or living beings, for that matter.
According to a research paper from a team of scientists at the University of Duisberg in Germany, people tend to respond to robots with the same empathy as they would feel for other humans. The team studied 40 participants by showing them videos of a small dinosaur-shaped robot being treated either affectionately or violently, and then measuring both their psychological response and emotions. All participants responded negatively to seeing the robot being mistreated.
In the second study, participants looked at videos of a human, the robot, and another random object being treated affectionately or violently. Again, the participants responded negatively to the sight of the robot being maltreated.
The results could give researchers a better idea of how to develop long-lasting robotic companions for humans, and they could also give us insight into how and why we pesky humans become bored with new technology after a while. I guess it would be great to have a robot around that could not only tackle household chores, but also act like an actual member of the family.
Maybe future Mars One pioneers could use some robot friends to take with them.