Could you learn something from touching a robot’s bottom?

Female Robot
Photo by Gnsin [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Emotional connections to a piece of technology do happen. After all, many people appear to be umbilically connected to their mobile phone; without their phone, they feel lost and ignored. But could you have some kind of arousal, simply by touching a piece of tech?

It appears people can become emotional aroused simply by touching a robot in places where you would not normally be expected to touch such a device. Researchers have discovered that touching a robot’s bottom leads people to become physiologically aroused in the same way that intimate contact occurs between humans. People get turned on by touching the fake bottom of a robot.

The researchers compared the physiological response to touching a robot on its more intimate areas with touching on less private parts, such as hands. It turns out that the people taking part in the study were not really aroused by touching a robot in those “ordinary” areas. But as soon as people were asked to touch the robot somewhere “they shouldn’t” they became aroused. Not only that, but they also hesitated more when touching the intimate parts of the robot, suggesting that there is a moral consideration taking place as well.

Touch is a crucial factor

Touching is fundamental to human behaviour. In each hand you have about 100,000 nerve endings which can respond to a variety of inputs related to touch. Your fingers are very, very sensitive – so much so you can detect things that are 0.04mm apart.

When you think about it, there’s a reason for this degree of sophistication. Human beings have been able to use tools in much more specific ways compared with many of our primate cousins. It isn’t just our conscious brain that has done that, but the degree to which our touch system (the somatosensory system) has developed. Touch is a fundamental reason why the human species is so advanced.

So it should come as no surprise that much of our touch system is automated and almost instinctive. Intimacy and touch go together, but it now appears that our brain doesn’t know much of a difference between real and false familiarity. The robot study shows us just how important touch is to the human condition.

Use touch online

If your website doesn’t include touch, then you are missing out on a fundamental part of connecting with your human visitors. But how can you use touch when a website is merely a two-dimensional visual item?

The answer is to extend touch between your business and your customers or potential clients. Instead of just offering downloads, for instance, ask people if they want a printed version. Getting your products or your service into the hands of people establishes a physical connection, something that is missing online.

Similarly, if you offer a service, turn it into a product that can be touched. Even in these days of downloadable software, you can see that. All you need to do is visit a computer store and buy a copy of Windows 10. You pick up a box, take it the counter and pay for it. You have touched the product, you have it in your hands, you have a physically aroused connection between you and the product. Except you don’t, because all the box contains is a piece of paper with a registration code on it – you have to download the software.

Turning services into physical products like this is one good way in which your online business can benefit from customers getting to touch you. Just don’t tell them you learned that from touching a robot’s bottom…!

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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @UniOfBuckingham: If you missed us @MKJobshow at the weekend you can find out all about how our two year degrees and student life works… - 4 hours ago
Graham Jones
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