During the experiment, researchers used an Aldebaran Robotics humanoid NAO robot, which had been programmed to ask participants to touch 13 different parts of its body.
During the trial, test subjects, were wired up to a skin conductance sensor to measure their reaction time as well as their physical responses, while sitting next to the robot and following its instructions. There were ten volunteers in total, four female and six male.
The study found that when the NAO robot told test subjects to touch its "intimate" body parts, participants were "more emotionally aroused" but also "more hesitant"—suggesting potential discomfort—compared to touching less intimate regions, which saw subjects deliver a more natural, and typically quicker response.
When asked to only point at the body parts, no differences in physiological arousal were found.
"Social robots can elicit tactile responses in human physiology, a result that signals the power of robots, and should caution mechanical and interaction designers about positive and negative effects of human-robot interactions," the report reads.