The future is now as Brits believe we're co-existing with robots

20th June 2018
Posted By : Anna Flockett
The future is now as Brits believe we're co-existing with robots

A fifth of UK adults polled ahead of UK Robotics Week believe that humans are already co-existing in harmony with robots in the UK, a new survey has found, while nearly a quarter believe that there is much more scope for robots to be included in everyday society. The research, commissioned by the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network, is being released for UK Robotics Week, which returns from 21–29th June 2018.  

There are 20% of a representative sample of UK adults that think that we are already at the point of living in harmony with robotics technology and autonomous machines(1), and 24% of those surveyed believe that there is more scope for robots to become part of our day-to-day lives.

The survey reports that over one in three (35%) people polled would feel comfortable with having robots around the house. The survey also revealed some interesting perceptions about the limits of what robots should and should not be allowed to do. Almost a quarter (22%) have suggested that there should be some ethical laws around the work robots can do, and over one in ten (13%) agree there should be an upper limit on the number of hours robots can work per day.

Significant growth is forecast in the global robotics industry and it’s not gone unnoticed among the British public, with 20% saying the UK industry has progressively ‘massively’ over the last few years and will continue to advance. A further 24% of 55-year-olds have said they consider robots and robotics to be of huge benefit to society, demonstrating that positive public perceptions of robotics cross age boundaries.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Over a fifth of people (21%) would feel comfortable with a robot delivering food or packages to their houses
  • Almost one in ten would feel comfortable having a robot perform surgery (8%)

The top reasons respondents would feel comfortable with robot assistance are:

  • Because a robot doesn’t get tired so would be able to work longer than humans (36.8%)
  • The ability to program robots to do tasks exactly as required (33.9%)
  • No involvement of emotions that could interfere with tasks (32.1%)

Commenting on the release of the survey results, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang of Imperial College London and Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, said: “These survey results demonstrate that the general public is clearly engaged in thinking quite deeply about advances in robotics technology, and what it means for society and the future of how we live and work. This is exactly the type of engagement and dialogue that the UK Robotics Week initiative was set up to progress, and we’re looking forward to the coming week of national activities and its many opportunities to continue that discussion.” 

Now in its third year, UK Robotics Week will see robotics-focused activities taking place up and down the country, spanning lectures, conferences, hackathons, and open days. In what has become the centrepiece of UK Robotics Week, the International Robotics Showcase in Liverpool on Thursday 21st June will feature exclusive talks by world-renowned experts in science and technology, plus lively panel discussions and debate covering the ethical, legal and economic impact of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). An all-day exhibition will offer live robot demonstrations and the chance for academics, industry and the general public to explore the latest technological developments and capabilities.

At the Showcase, two exclusive whitepapers will also be published, offering an in-depth exploration of the current research landscape in Urban Automation & Transport and AgriTech. The UK Robotics Week initiative is jointly spearheaded by founding supporters, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), The Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the UK-RAS Special Interest Group, and is being coordinated by the EPSRC UK-RAS network.


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