Nice job, New York!

I ❤️ New York

New Yorkers aren't exactly known for being warm and fuzzy, so researchers were pleasantly surprised when only a few were rude to some trash-collecting robots deployed in Greenwich Village.

The Cornell researchers behind the experiment — which featured robotic trash cans that zoomed about Astor Place — found that only some of the people they observed reacted violently or rudely.

Presented at the recent International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, this research aimed to see how people react now to "robots in public spaces," in order to "better understand the range of behaviors and norms that robots will need to manage autonomously in longer-term deployments," wrote Fanjan Bu, Ilan Mandel, Wen-Ying Lee, and Wendy Ju, the paper's authors.

Both trash bots had cameras attached to them, and in a video accompanying the research, a wide range of reactions can be observed, from the predictable middle-finger flip-off and assault on the robot that left it knocked over to — shockingly! — people feeding the robot trash and helping it out.

At one point, a little girl is even seen walking up to the robot, blowing it a kiss, and then waving goodbye.


Overall, you could do a lot worse in the Big Apple.

"In general, people welcomed the robots," the researchers wrote, and were observed "interacting with them avidly."

After interviewing some of the people who interacted with the robots, the Cornell scientists said that their perceptions of the autonomous trash receptacles "varied widely."

"Some interviewees treated the robot like a public good and were appreciative of its help," they continued. "Others thought the robots wanted trash, expecting the robot to be grateful for their 'contribution'  after disposing of items."

Perhaps even more surprisingly, however, the researchers found that when the robots "got stuck" on uneven surfaces, "people were keen to help the robots when they were in trouble," and some even "would proactively move chairs and obstacles to clear a path for the robots."

All-in-all, people seemed to mostly be nice to the robots in this study — and the few jerks who were rude were, like with the rest of the New York populace, merely annoying outliers.

More on robots: Study: Cute (and Non Human-Looking) Robots Will Subdue the Humans

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