Technology firms Merck and Furhat Robotics unveiled a robot in Stockholm that will ask people about their health and screen them for risk of diabetes, alcoholism and hypothyroidism. If necessary, the robot will advise them to go for a blood test or to a doctor. The robot, a three-dimensional bust with a projection of a human-like face, aims to build on our new-found ease talking to voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, by persuading us to interact with it as if it were a person, picking up on our cues to strike up a rapport.
“Every robot needs a different personality depending on the job it’s going to do,” said Samer Al Moubayed, chief executive of Furhat Robotics. Furhat can be male or female, old or young, wisecracking or serious. Moubayed also stated that “one of the barriers that robots have had is the issue with expressivity – being able to move like us with very smooth, very expressive facial movements, eye movements and head movements.”
The robot can spur people to engage more honestly, its creator says, making it useful in situations such as screening for health risks where people often lie. “We’ve seen research that shows that in certain situations people are more comfortable opening up and talking about difficult issues with a robot than with a human,” said Moubayed.