Local dialects can increase trust in robots, study finds

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Research has shown that local dialects play an important role in self, in-group, and cultural identity. But can they also impact our interaction with robots?

This question is particularly relevant for social robots — the ones designed to interact with humans, such as classroom assistants or even the famous Sophia humanoid. To facilitate their relationship with people, these robots feature many anthropomorphic characteristics, including human-like appearance and voice.

However, studies have so far been divided on whether the use of local dialects or standard language has a stronger effect on the perception of their trustworthiness and competence.

To further shed light on this inconsistency, a research team from the University of Potsdam ran an experiment using standard German and the Berlin dialect.

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“It’s not only about the robot,” Katharina Kühne, lead author of the study, told TNW. “We, as humans, also bring ourselves in that interaction. And very often we ignore the human element. So we wanted to look at this relationship from both sides,” she added.

To assess the impact of the local dialect, the team surveyed 120 Berlin residents. The participants watched a video in which the robot uses a male human voice and speaks  in standard German or the Berlin dialect.

Here’s what the difference between the two sounds like: