Robots in hospitality: Female robots are preferred over male counterparts

A Washington State University study shows that People prefer female robots in the hospitality industry.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, particularly by computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using the rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions), and self-correction. AI is currently being employed in multiple areas, including computer systems, medicine, universities, airports, military defense systems, manufacturing plants, banks, and even multiple online platforms. In today’s world, AI is one of the most prominent technological fields. This technology has become so popular that it has replaced regular services that are normally performed by humans.

During COVID-19 however, many industries were hit particularly hard, leading to mass lay-offs and unemployment. A study from Washington State University (WSU) lends itself to the idea that because of the fight to keep some industries alive, robotic helpers aided in efforts to revitalise businesses.

AI became a popular tool to understand human learning and thinking. Once researchers were able to create machines that could think like humans did, they began creating computers that could solve complex problems, without the need to be programmed step-by-step. These machines use algorithms to solve problems and learn from experience.

WSU study shows humans prefer female AI in hospitality

Today’s artificial intelligence includes many different technologies such as machine vision and speech recognition. Several studies and experiments with people show that people prefer female voices and disposition to male ones, providing that sense of comfort and ease. The largest effect of this study is shown in GPS navigation voices and personal AI in phones.

A new study from Washington State University (WSU) shows that people prefer female robots in the hospitality industry. The study surveyed approximately 170 people on hypothetical service robot scenarios. In one of such scenarios, they were welcomed by a male service robot. In another, they were welcomed with the exact same wording by a female robot. The only difference between the robots were gender and names.

The response of most participants was that they favoured the female robots, including the ones that presented as more human. The participants shared that their service experience was more “pleasant and satisfying”, making the participants response correlate with the societal gender stereotypes.

Soobin Seo, the WSU researcher who authored the study, shared that the disposition to be comforted easier by women is part of pre-existing beliefs about service roles. Seo adds that “gender stereotype appears to transfer to robot interactions” and goes on to share that when the robots presented more human, the trust in them amplified.

Issues with AI

There are reasons why replacing human hospitality workers with robots could be a bad idea. For instance, a robot may not be able to anticipate customer needs or provide the same level of customer service as an employee who is familiar with the customer’s preferences and history. By bringing in these robots, hotels and luxury resorts that enlist the bost would no longer need to hire people. Furthermore, this change could lead to fewer jobs for human employees, who may have to find new careers in other industries.

The hospitality industry is still heavily dependent on humans because they provide a service that is valued by customers. If robot technology advanced to the point where robots were able to replace every job currently done by a human, this would make it possible to run a hotel with few or no human employees. While this sounds like an obvious benefit — fewer costs and greater efficiency — there are serious drawbacks that should be considered first.

Seo mentions that institutions should look at adding robots to their staff “more wisely” in the hospitality industry, speaking to how the onset of these helpers could be transferrable interactions in the same way that humans interact with each other. Because hotels rely on repeat business from their regular customers, these problems could eventually lead to declining profits.

As time goes on, it’s clear that AI will only continue to more deeply influence our lives. Robots are already beginning to replace jobs in hospitality, the military and other industries. Although many are worried about being replaced by them, it’s important to keep in mind that AI is in its very early days; it still has a long way to go before it truly takes over. However, developments like these highlight the dramatic changes to society that technology has brought about over the past few years. It is evident that the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a modern necessity.

Marleena Garris

Marleena Garris is a reporter at Breakthrough.

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