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article imageA social robot can deliver a motivational interview

By Tim Sandle     May 4, 2018 in Technology
Plymouth - To answer the question "could robots be counselors?", early research suggest yes, with advances in artificial intelligence, as initial studies show a positive user experience.
New research, from the University of Plymouth, U.K., indicates that a social robot can deliver a 'helpful' and 'enjoyable' motivational interview. This artificial intelligence equipped machine could be used to help counsel humans with a wide variety of problems, supplanting psychologists across a number of areas.
Of course the use of a machine in place of a qualified psychologist remains many years away and even when the technology reaches an acceptable level of competency, revealing all to a machine may not be to everyone's taste. Nonetheless, the advances made in a recent study show how close artificial intelligence is coming to offering a counseling service.
The focus has been on the "motivational interview". This is a counseling technique designed to support behavior change. Motivational interviewing is a directive, client-centered counselling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence. It is most centrally defined not by technique but by its spirit as a facilitative style for interpersonal relationship.
In a recent study, those enlisted in then research centered on an artificial intelligence equipped robot counselor, praised the 'non-judgmental' nature of the humanoid robot as it delivered its session. Several of those who took part went so far as to saying they preferred the robot to a human psychologist.
According to lead academic Professor Jackie Andrade: "We were pleasantly surprised by how easily the participants adapted to the unusual experience of discussing their lifestyle with a robot. As we have shown for the first time that a motivational interview delivered by a social robot can elicit out-loud discussion from participants."
The research has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The research paper is headed "Experiences of a Motivational Interview Delivered by a Robot: Qualitative Study."
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