When we first met Pepper in 2014, the robot capable of deciphering human emotions was touted as a possible way to help take care of the elderly and combat loneliness.
Pepper is still around, but its latest trick is trash talk.
Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute released a study into whether Pepper slinging insults at players affected their performance during a rationality game called “Guards and Treasures.” The result: Even robotic abuse can throw a player off their game. And Pepper’s encouragement helped them perform better.
According to the school’s statement, the researchers wanted to explore “game theory and bounded rationality in the context of robots.”
The study consisted of 40 player participants who each played Pepper 35 times. The players picked for Pepper’s derision got disses like, “I have to say you are a terrible player” and “Over the course of the game your playing has become confused.”
Even that mild machine maligning caused participants to play the game less rationally and perceive Pepper negatively. According to the study, one participant said, “It kept making me doubt myself.”
Pepper’s ability to interact with humans means it could be useful in mental health treatment, according to Afsaneh Doryab, a systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute during the study.
And future studies may look into nonverbal interactions between humans and machines. How’s your side-eye, Pepper?