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Designing for Emerging Technologies by Jonathan Follett

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Chapter 16. Designing Human-Robot Relationships

SCOTT STROPKAY AND BILL HARTMAN

You wake up in a rural hospital bed. You hear monitors sounding alarms, pumps clicking, and voices over an intercom. Confused, you look around and see a nurse, a young technician, and a third person, a doctor—or so she appears to be. But you see only her face on a screen, talking and moving toward you. She is interacting with you through a robot. The robot-doctor tells you not to worry; you were just involved in an accident requiring surgery and you are in recovery. Don’t be startled by her robot body, she adds. She can’t be there in person right now. As you begin to make sense of the situation, you understand that the robot is a telepresence interface between you and your doctor and that she is a surgeon who lives and works in another city.

As the robo-doc begins directing the other people in the room, you realize she’s in control of your care. Although you begin to answer her questions, you learn that the distant doctor also performed your surgery in the surgical theater down the hall using another robot. A monitor in your room sounds an alarm. The remote doctor tells you what it is and she silences it somehow. Noticing your look of surprise, your surgeon explains that she’s connected to all the hospital’s systems and devices that are monitoring you right now. Soon, you find yourself forgetting that you’re talking to a video doctor, and the robot begins to seem more like a person than a machine. That ...

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