Accent on/in roboticness

A recent study at the Delft University of Technology, in The Netherlands, determined that in some cases, some people would prefer that service robots are not talkative [see: The agreeableness of robotic vacuum cleaners]. If they were to be, however, what kind of accent should they have? Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent and colleagues at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, investigated whether a notional future robotic healthcare worker (programmed to measure patients’ blood pressure) would be more (or less) appreciated depending on its robot voice accent. Three male robot voices were generated: British (UK), American (US), and New Zealand (NZ). Experimental participants listened through headphones to a recorded script repeated in the three different accents – then they rated the nationality, roboticness, and overall impression of each voice, and chose their preferred accent.

“There was no difference in impression ratings of each voice, but the US accent was rated as more robotic than the NZ accent, and the UK accent was preferred to the US accent.”

“These results suggest that the employment of a less robotic voice with a local accent may positively affect user perceptions of robots.”

– say the research team.
Their paper, The Effects of Synthesized Voice Accents on User Perceptions of Robots, will be published in a future issue of the International Journal of Social Robotics