Personalized human-robot interactions could improve patient engagement

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Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel have identified patient preferences in the development of human-robot interactions. According to the study published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, patient preferences could improve robotic utilization in rehabilitation.

Interactions between humans and robots in the healthcare setting are poised to increase as technology advances. In response, BGU researchers set out to identify patient preferences regarding human-robot interactions to improve patient experience and utilization of robotic assistance.

"In the future, human beings may increasingly rely on robotic assistance for daily tasks, and our research shows that the type of motions that the robot makes when interacting with humans makes a difference in how satisfied the person is with the interaction," said Shelly Levy-Tzedek, head of the Cognition, Aging and Rehabilitation Lab in BGU's Department of Physical Therapy and a member of the University's Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience. "People feel that if robots don't move like they do, it is unsettling and they will use them less frequently."

The study enrolled 22 college-aged participants where they performed a mirroring game, where a human and robot took turns in following each other’s moves, with a robotic hand.

The first finding concluded robotic movement prime human movement, meaning the person tends to mimic the movements of the robot. The second finding reported no preference in leading or following the robot by human participants. The third finding concluded that humans preferred smooth, human-like movements rather than the sharp “robotic” movements of the hand when the robot was leading.

“This finding highlights the importance of developing personalized human-robot interactions. Just as the field of medicine is moving toward customized medicine for each patient, the field of robotics needs to customize the pattern of interaction differently for each user,” said Levy-Tzedek. "Thus, determining the elements in the interaction that make users more motivated to continue is important in designing future robots that will interact with humans on a daily basis.”