SXSW Interactive Journal: Day 3 Part 1

Observations and inspirations from the Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide team attending SXSW 2015 in Austin. Our healthcare specialists are reporting activity in real time. Our team will post updates as they become available. Check back daily for event coverage, local flavor, and insights that will help you accelerate your healthcare marketing efforts.

Report by Matt Balogh/

Would You Torture a Robot?

From the “Would You Torture a Robot?” session at SXSW 2015

PRESENTATION SUMMARY: Would You Torture a Robot?
Richard Fisher, Deputy Editor BBC Future, BBC Worldwide


Robots are just machines, or are they? Cruelty to robots seems like a strange topic, and at first glance people tend not to consider it an issue. But can humans have an affinity for a machine? Studies suggest that people often feel unconfortable when watching social robots tortured or harmed. Why is this? And what role can something like this play in healthcare?

After watching a pleo robot for a few minutes, study participants were asked to take a hammer and destroy the simple toy. Many people refused, even under threat of destroying others robots. Further, bomb squad robots tend to be repaired, not replaced, again suggesting a human connection to the machine. In a YouTube video posted by Boston Dynamics ( they showed a robot “dog”, and demonstrated how it can be kicked without falling over. This caused internet outrage akin to kicking a real dog resulting in a “no robots were harmed in the making of this video” disclaimer at the end.

Though the link may not seem strong, in healthcare we are leveraging robots and computers more every year. On the high-end, at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, CA the RP-VITA remote doctor is being leveraged directly in patient care. On the low end we use apps to track our care, and we all know how we feel about our ‘personal’ devices. In the middle robot companions like GeriJoy and Tedi are used for both companionship and information collection in elder care and infants respectively.

Throughout SXSW, and in healthcare in general, we are constantly thinking about adherence. How can we leverage this research to influence behaviors such that people can gain an affinity for those things that can help improve their lives?

In this talk we lightly touch on ideas like the naming of our machines akin to Amazon’s Alexa (the name of their Echo product) to help create that affinity. Further we need to add value, and must have context, which comes from research and plenty of testing. In the end it will be our affinity for ourselves and our robots that will make good healthcare programs great.

Report by Matt Balogh/

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