White robots seem to be immensely more popular globally than ones with other skin tones. White-skinned robots have been seen in movies like “I, Robot” by Will Smith as well as Eve of “Wall-E”. As for real-world examples, Atlas from Boston Dynamics, Walker of UBTECH, Valkyrie robot of NASA and Honda’s Asimo has all been white. In fact, certain humanoid robots in the real-life have been fashioned after Scarlett Johansson and Audrey Hepburn, who are both white celebrities.
As per new research, the root cause behinds these white technological shades may actually be racism. Recently, a study was conducted by HIT Lab or the Laboratory for Technology on Human Interface on the connection between racism and robots. It was published by Canterbury University and this study has suggested that people form racial perceptions regarding robots that have a human-like form. As a result, racial stereotypes become applicable to black and white robots.
In fact, it has been discovered that the colors initiate social cues determining the reaction as well as behavior of humans toward other individuals as well as robots. Any bias against robots having black skin color arises out of the bias people have toward African-Americans, opined Christoph Bartneck, who is the lead researcher of the paper. Speaking to CNN, he said that it is surprising how humans who have not interacted with robots before, display racial bias about them.
According to researchers, these issues need immediate attention. The study says that in case robots are expected to perform as friends or teachers, serious problems will occur if all these roles can only ever be occupied by white robots due to the racial stigma. The study used robots that could easily be perceived as robots but possessed human-like head and limbs, with either a pinkish or a deep brown exterior complexion. A “shooter bias” experiment was conducted, where white and black people as well as robots were displayed on the screen for a brief period of time. Participants were asked to “shoot” the ones that held a weapon. However, people shot black robots not holding any weapons more than white ones without guns.