Stanford study finds touching robots can turn people on

A recent study by Stanford researchers found people can become aroused when touching the "private" places of robots.

The study used a small human-shaped robot which was programmed to ask participants to both point to and touch 13 different regions of the robot.

Researchers then tracked the participants' electrodermal activity, a measure of a person's physiological arousal.

The study found heightened electrodermal activity when participants were asked to touch more "intimate" areas that people usually do not touch on others, like buttocks, compared to touching more accessible parts like the hands.

Participants were also more hesitant to touch these "intimate" parts based on their response times.

Researchers said the findings can help us understand how we relate to humanoids and can help engineers develop robots that are more relatable.

"Our work shows that robots are a new form of media that is particularly powerful. It shows that people respond to robots in a primitive, social way," said Stanford reasercher Jamy Li.

"Social conventions regarding touching someone else's private parts apply to a robot's body parts as well. This research has implications for both robot design and theory of artificial systems," Li said.  

Researchers from Stanford are presenting their findings this week at the 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in Fukuoka, Japan.