Millennials ready for robots to aid family health and wellness, finds IEEE survey

The Robot Report
Millennials are ready for robots to aid family health and wellness, finds IEEE survey

Millennials with children were found to be generally accepting of emerging health technologies. Source: IEEE

Each generation must learn to adapt to new technologies, but the level of interest and adoption may vary. From artificial intelligence for telehealth to robot-assisted surgery and autonomous vehicles, many millennials with children are ready to accept emerging technologies, found the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE.

In “Generation AI 2020: Health, Wellness and Technology in a Post-COVID World,” the IEEE reported the results of surveys conducted in the U.S., the U.K., India, China, and Brazil between Sept. 25 and Oct. 6, 2020. The Piscataway, N.J.-based organization surveyed 400 parents aged 24 to 39 with at least one “Generation Alpha” child under 11 years old in each country, for a total of 2,000 respondents.

Millennials accept new tech

The IEEE claims to be the world’s largest nonprofit technical organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. It said that young families are willing to use robots and other technologies for health and wellness, which has implications for developers. The global market for healthcare and assistive robots was already expected to grow before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IEEE found that 89% of respondents expressed confidence in disinfection robots, and 66% would use a robotic nanny to help with childcare. Fifty-four percent of Americans surveyed said that a robot that could help children with homework would “alleviate a significant amount of their COVID-19-related stress,” the IEEE said.

Most of the parents surveyed said they would be extremely likely (29%) or very likely (31%) to allow a robot to conduct surgery on their children and to have an AI-powered virtual nurse care for their children in a hospital. Acceptance rates were lower among U.S. millennials, with 41% saying they would not allow it, said the IEEE.

The survey also found that 54% millennials around the world were open to the ideas of AI chatbot diagnoses, 63% would approve 3D-printed heart implants, and 85% would consider virtual reality visitation for their children. Again, Americans were more skeptical.

IEEE discusses survey results

Carmen Fontana, an IEEE member and cloud and emerging technology lead at Centric Consulting, responded to the following questions from The Robot Report about the survey.

While the IEEE study focused on millennials, do you have a sense of how their attitudes compare with those of previous generations? Is society generally becoming more accepting of robotics and other technologies?

Fontana: Millennials are a unique demographic, as they’ve essentially lived all their lives with rapidly changing technology. As of such, they routinely accept and embrace whatever the next big thing is – from smartphones to social media to robotics.

While older generations may be a bit slower to latch onto the latest technology trends, they do get there and can be just as accepting. My boomer parents, for example, may not be on TikTok like my kids, but they love asking their smart home device for the weather and monitoring their AI-powered HVAC system.

While most of the those surveyed expressed confidence in disinfection robots for cleaning public spaces, how much do you think the average person knows about such systems?

Fontana: Many of the robots in employ today are out of everyday sight, operating on, for example, factory floors. The average person knows that they are there and that they perform important functions, but they have very little real exposure with regard to seeing and interacting with systems firsthand.

As robots increasingly come into the public view, for things like cleaning public spaces, people will gain a better understanding of their capabilities and limitations.

IEEE Millennials survey

Most respondents trust sensors for social distancing in public venues. Source: IEEE

Why do you believe American respondents were less comfortable with telehealth than respondents in other countries, as the healthcare professional shortage is just as acute here as anywhere else?

Fontana: Pre-pandemic, there were several hurdles impacting telehealth adoption in America. However, many of those barriers were removed due to COVID-19, so telehealth is growing. That said, as is the case with many emerging technologies, it will take some time before telehealth becomes universally adopted.

Autonomous vehicles were beyond the scope of this report, but do you have any insight into how millennials might view them in comparison with other groups based on the data highlighted in the study?

Fontana: From a cultural perspective, I expect autonomous vehicle adoption to be driven forward by the digitally native millennial demographic.

That said, millennials are, in general, less of “car people” than their predecessors. They embrace ride-sharing services and are more likely to choose a luxury vacation over a luxury car. Millennials do not have the attachment to the driving experience that older generations have, making them apt to hand over the proverbial keys to the AI operating their vehicles.

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