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Can robots help treat mental illness?

Would you like to communicate with a robot? And with a robot psychologist? A study by tech company Oracle and HR consultancy Workplace Intelligence found that 82% of people surveyed in 11 countries believe robots are better at coping with psychological problems than humans. However, according to researchers, such communication has significant disadvantages, since there are important human qualities that modern technologies cannot reproduce. However, with the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, robots have turned from a pipe dream of the distant future into reality and even got jobs. So what about robot psychologists? Let's figure it out.

Can robots replace psychotherapists? Ironically, the results of the study showed that robots may be even better psychologists than humans.

Mental health and robots

2020 was not an easy year for all of us. According to the results of several scientific studies, the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of people around the world. Oracle and Workplace Intelligence also say that "the pandemic has exacerbated work-related stress in many people, affecting the mental health of 78% of the global workforce." Given the shortage of mental health professionals and social workers in many countries, some experts believe that the use of robots can help clinics diagnose diseases, giving psychiatrists and psychologists more time to counsel other patients.

Recently researchers from MassachusettsInstitute of Technology has developed a neural network model that can detect depression in speech patterns in recorded text and audio conversation. In the future, the model could be added to mobile apps that track the user's text and voice for mental health problems. This technology can be especially useful for people who cannot go to a psychiatric clinic for a diagnosis due to distance, cost, or even inconvenience in front of a doctor.

You will be interested in: Humanoid robots become a reality

Previous studies have also noted an increase in mental health problems, especially among young people, which has been linked to social media.

Another equally interesting studyThe Australian Center for Robotic Vision and the Queensland University of Technology have shown that social robots have tremendous potential in helping people cope with depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and eating disorders.

Robots can also pave the way for new methodstreatment, the possibility of involving hard-to-reach populations and improving patient response - at least this is the conclusion reached by researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM). In the course of their work, the researchers studied the ethical implications of communicating with a robot psychologist and found that robots are much easier to manipulate people than other people. Agree, quite unexpected, although the work has a number of limitations.

Robots can play a huge role in maintaining our mental health

Contributors to Oracle and Workplace CollaborationIntelligence notes that only 18% of respondents would prefer humans to robots to maintain their mental health, because they believe that robots have an unbiased approach and are quick to answer health-related questions.

Robots, empathy and other problems

And yet, in human-robot communicationthere are a number of problems. The problem of empathy is especially highlighted - a conscious empathy for the emotional state of another person. To date, there is not a single program that would allow a machine to empathize with human emotions. And this is the most important component of psychotherapy for a huge number of people.

Too humanoid robots inevitably become the embodiment of the "sinister valley" effect.

Researchers note that robots or systemsAI helps to some extent, but when it comes to more complex issues, such as deep-seated family problems or complex conflicts between close friends. In other words, AI today will not be able to meet all of our needs. Robots are programmed to say certain things, but they won't be able to fully understand you and your feelings.

Another often overlooked problem in human-robot communication is the so-called the "evil valley" effect. For the first time formulated the hypothesis of the ominous valleyJapanese robotics scientist Masahiro Mori. A phenomenon implies that a robot or other object that looks or acts roughly like a human causes dislike and disgust among observers. Indeed, imagine that you are going to have a session with a robot psychologist who looks like two peas in a pod. What emotions will you experience from communicating with a doctor? We will wait for the answer here, as well as in the comments to this article.