SATO Wataru Laboratory

Delivery of pleasant stroke touch via robot in older adults

(Ishikura, Sato, Takamatsu, Yuguchi, Cho, Ding, Yoshikawa, & Ogasawara: Front Psychol)

Touch care has clinically positive effects on older adults.
Touch can be delivered using robots, addressing the lack of caregivers.
A recent study of younger participants showed that stroke touch delivered via robot produced subjective and physiologically positive emotional responses similar to those evoked by human touch.
However, whether robotic touch can elicit similar responses in older adults remains unknown.

We investigated this topic by assessing subjective rating (valence and arousal) and physiological signals [corrugator and zygomatic electromyography (EMG) and skin conductance response (SCR)] to gentle stroking motions delivered to the backs of older participants by robot and human agents at two different speeds: 2.6 and 8.5 cm/s.
Following the recent study, the participants were informed that only the robot strokes them.
We compared the difference between the younger (their data from the previous study) and the older participants in their responses when the two agents (a robot and a human) stroked them.

Subjectively, data from both younger and older participants showed that 8.5 cm/s stroking was more positive and arousing than 2.6 cm/s stroking for both human and robot agents.
Physiologically, data from both younger and older participants showed that 8.5 cm/s stroking induced weaker corrugator EMG activity and stronger SCR activity than the 2.6 cm/s stroking for both agents.

These results demonstrate that the overall patterns of the older groups responses were similar to those of the younger group, and suggest that robot-delivered stroke touch can elicit pleasant emotional responses in older adults.

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