Bring on the Bots to Boost Employee Bliss

A recent study from MIT suggests robots should have more control to make human employees happier in the workplace.
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A recent study from MIT suggests robots should have more control to make human employees happier in the workplace.
Willow Garage

Photo Credit: Willow Garage

Science fiction has taught us that giving robots too much emotional intelligence, humanlike abilities and control in the workplace is dangerous. However, a recent study from MIT says giving robots more control at work can lead to happier human employees. 

The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT conducted a study involving three workers, one of which was a PR-2 humanoid robot. ReadWrite reports that the workers all completed an engineering task together in three conditions — manual, or totally organized by a human; autonomous, or totally managed by the robot; or semi-autonomous, where the robot assigned tasks to one human worker, and the other person assigned tasks to himself. 

When the humans had complete control, they ended up completing more tedious tasks, but less so when there was semi-autonomous control. During full autonomy, the team started to see some real progress. In addition to being more efficient, the humans actually preferred the full autonomy.

“In our research we were seeking to find that sweet spot for ensuring that the human workforce is both satisfied and productive,” said Matthew Gombolay, a PhD. student at CSAIL and the project's lead. “We discovered that the answer is to actually give machines more autonomy, if it helps people to work together more fluently with robot teammates.”

See how the robot and humans worked together in all three phases in the video below. 

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