There’s not much better in life than a hug from someone close to you when you’re feeling down.
And while human affection is something everyone craves, it turns out we may be looking in the wrong place for our comfort.
Scientists now believe that ROBOTS are better at giving hugs than your standard flesh and bone sentient being.
The reason they give is that, unlike humans, robots are more physically powerful and not at all judgemental or clingy.
Alexis Block, one of the co-authors of the ‘Emotionally Supporting Humans Through Robot Hugs at the International Conference on Human Robot Interaction’ paper, said the findings show that robots will soon be able to provide emotional support on demand.
And it’s not just emotional support a hug can provide – studies show that they may reduce stress and blood pressure and even protect against the common cold.
Ms Block, from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, told IEEE Spectrum magazine: ‘The results from our experiment suggest that to make a good hug whoever/whatever you hug should be compliant, warm, squeeze you, and release you immediately when you indicate you’re ready for the hug to end.
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‘Humans not only instinctively connect with each other through touch but also to their surroundings and new, exciting things they see.’
She added: ‘I had several self-proclaimed introverts participate in my experiment. Some of them told me that they preferred hugging the robot over hugging other people because the robot would let them go when they indicated they were done with the hug, whereas their friends and family members would sometimes hug them for too long.
‘I think people may like hugging robots partially because they know the robot won’t judge them for how long a hug they want or need.’
Tests were carried out using a Huggiebot – a 450lb robot with added foam and cotton padding to the arms and torso.
Researchers found tight, soft and warm hugs that didn’t go on for too long were most favoured by participants.
It is hoped that Huggiebots may one day be introduced to care homes and workplaces to provide emotional support when needed, though its creators say it is not intended to be a replacement for human affection.