WUFT News

Ocala Scientist Tests How People Trust Technology

By on April 29th, 2014
Fire

Photo courtesy of David Atkinson, Ph.D

He grabs the briefcase. Spindles of smoke unravel across the warehouse floor. Flames crackle and creep closer. Crumbling debris blocks an exit.

A metal robot, about the height and girth of a large garbage can, appears near the avatar.

“I know the way. Follow me.”

The scenario is part of a government-funded online experiment scheduled for June and run by David Atkinson of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala.

The project, backed by the armed forces, has only a few final adjustments needed before Atkinson can test what it takes for a person to trust a robot in emergencies, a problem the Air Force is particularly interested in, the senior researcher said.

“The armed forces [want] to see software working alongside people rather than simply being used as tools,” said Atkinson, who’s directed the Lunar robotic missions at NASA and was a program manager at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

“But like any team member, people have to make decisions with trust.”

David Atkinson

Photo courtesy of David Atkinson

David J. Atkinson, Ph.D

Ben Knotts, Atkinson’s Air Force sponsor, couldn’t get permission to speak about the Air Force’s interest.

However, according to an Air Force report, “Developing methods for establishing ‘certifiable trust in autonomous systems’ is the single greatest technical barrier that must be overcome to obtain the capability advantages that are achievable by increasing use of autonomous systems.”

Military commanders are uncomfortable using machines to interpret data, Atkinson said. The Air Force wants to know more about how people interact with machines as it takes more pilots out of planes.

“I’m most curious about the initial reaction,” Atkinson said about the experiment, which will be conducted twice a day for four months in SecondLife, an online world simulation.

He’ll ask users about 30 questions to gauge how anxious they are and their attitudes about the robot during the encounter. The results of his theoretical work will be used to program robots for emergency search–and-rescue situations.

“We want robots that are going places and doing things that are too dangerous for people,” he said.

Robot and avatar in SecondLife

Photo courtesy of David Atkinson

A robot avatar and human avatar interact in SecondLife.

People often rely on machines beyond their capabilities or not enough to the point of the machine being a waste of expenses, he said.

“You don’t want to use a broom to dig a hole in your yard,” Atkinson said. “The first things we look for in people doing work for us is what we look for in a machine: competence and predictability.”

Rose Anna Rutledge, a counselor and evaluator at the Intensive Treatment Modalities mental health provider in Gainesville, said people build trust on how others appear and behave, not on what they say.

“Following through over time is an essential feature of trust,” she said. “If a person is consistently late then we’re going to struggle with a level of distrust.”

When the human and robot encounter each other in the SecondLife warehouse, the robot will display 1 of 17 combinations of physical and interpersonal qualities.

Sometimes it’ll speak louder or softer. It might lean close or pull away. To gauge how people respond to a robot’s decor, it might appear in heroic red or as a humble janitor.

“There are cognitive aspects of trust that add up consciously. There’s also an emotional side,” Atkinson said. “For example, ‘Do I like the color red?’ We’re teasing apart all of these elements.”

Participants will be random people already using SecondLife. Atkinson may do an additional test in his laboratory with 3-D goggles, heat sensors and vibrations to make the experience more realistic.


This entry was posted in Health and Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Benjamin Dover

    Today’s coercion is most often found as a labyrinth of complicated restrictions and regulations that restrain action to the point that any remaining freedom is essentially useless.

 

More Stories in Health and Science

Molly McCann, 66, traps a wild calico cat Sunday evening. She works with Operation Catnip, a local organization that cares for Gainesville’s community cat population by spaying or neutering and vaccinating them before releasing them back to their turfs.

Operation Catnip Launches Website, Educates On Trap And Neuter Methods

Gainesville non-profit dedicated to sterilizing and vaccinating stray cats creates a website to help other communities take care of un-owned cats.


The Florida Department of Children and Families recently included a new heat map on their child fatality website. The heat map shows communities in Florida affected by child fatalities.

Rise In Duval County Infant Fatalities Increases Need For Awareness And Transparency

Infant fatalities are on the rise in Duval County, but the Department of Children and Families is strategizing how to bring awareness to parents and caretakers about unsafe sleeping practices. It has made resources and information available to the community about past child fatalities and how to prevent them.


dogpalsy

Community Provides Companion For Cerebral Palsy Child

Olivia Pitts, 3, has lived with cerebral palsy her whole life. Now, her community has pulled together to provide her with a service dog..


Jessica Grobman, born HIV-positive, said she believes better sex education in Florida schools would help children grow up safer and healthier. “If education was just more encouraged, it definitely could be a great outcome,” she said.  Photo courtesy of Jessica Grobman.

HIV Positive Student Advocates Comprehensive Sex Education

Jessica Grobman was born with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. But it was not until she learned about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in middle school that she began to understand she was different.


FTN-feature

UF Graduate Students Offer Free Therapy To Those In Need

Volunteer graduate students studying clinical health psychology staff the Free Therapy Night clinic at Gainesville Community Ministry. The equal access clinic focuses specifically on mental health.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments