Robots with local accents appear more trustworthy and competent to users, research


Whether it’s Optimus Prime or the Daleks from Doctor Who, most robots have the same monotonous, automated voice.

But research suggests certain groups of people might prefer it if they used a familiar accent or dialect.

A study has found that speaking in a local accent can – in certain circumstances – make robots seem more trustworthy and competent.

Scientists from the University of Potsdam, in Germany, recruited 120 people living in either Berlin or Brandenburg to take an online survey.

They asked participants to watch videos in which a robot using a male human voice spoke either in standard German or the Berlin dialect, which is considered working-class.

Most robots - like the Daleks and Optimus Prime - have the same monotonous, automated voice

Most robots – like the Daleks and Optimus Prime – have the same monotonous, automated voice

A study has found that speaking in a local accent - such as the Berlin (pictured) dialect - can make robots seem more trustworthy and competent

A study has found that speaking in a local accent – such as the Berlin (pictured) dialect – can make robots seem more trustworthy and competent

People were asked to rate the robot’s trustworthiness and competence, and to fill out a questionnaire which included sections on how well they spoke to Berlin dialect and how often they used it.

In general, the respondents preferred a robot speaking standard German.

But those who were more comfortable with the Berlin dialect preferred the robot speaking their local language.

Lead author Katharina Kühne said: ‘If you’re good at speaking a dialect, you’re more likely to trust a robot that talks the same way.

‘It seems people trust the robot more because they find a similarity.’

The team said context could play an important role in determining when a local accent is suitable.

For example, it could be useful in a care home scenario when it is important for people to feel a connection with the robot.

But in other situations – such as in a hospital or hotel – people may prefer a robot that speaks in a standard accent.

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.



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