Handshakes can be very effective when it comes to building personal trust in business negotiations that they prove to work regardless that one of the parties involved in the deal is a robot.

Scientists claim that the shaking of hands before a business meeting could have beneficial results. Shaking hands before a conversation starts, for instance, has been shown to foster trust and better cooperation.

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Bath has shown that two people who are thousands of miles apart can still make business deals marked by cooperation and mutual understanding when they use a robot to communicate and shake hands with the machine extending the physical act on behalf of a person in the process.

For the study, Chris Bevan, from the University of Bath's Department of Psychology, and colleagues used a 2-feet high humanoid robot called NAO in mock sale negotiations. One of the parties met the robot while the other was able to join the meeting using the microphone and camera of the robot, which comes equipped with touch sensors in the hand that transmit a signal when grasped and causes a controller used by the remote person to vibrate at the same time.

The researchers found that the shaking of hands when people interacted through a robot is as important as when they conduct meetings face to face. The study, which looked at the effect of handshaking on levels of trustworthiness and cooperation, has found evidence that virtual handshakes create a sense of connectedness between two parties as they experience the sensation of grasping a hand or feeling the controller vibrate during the shaking of the hand.

"This experiment highlights just how important the symbolic ritual of shaking hands is upon the way people come to judge others as being trustworthy and willing to cooperate," Bevan said adding that the use of a robotic avatar has helped demonstrate that the effect of handshake is the same as when a person cannot see the face of his counterpart.

Such interactions could pave way for robots conducting business meeting or give people who have limited mobility the opportunity to interact with others in a unique way. The researchers said that the results of the experiment highlight the importance of the simple gesture and touch of a handshake. The findings are also seen as crucial in the development of robot systems that can provide valuable applications.

Photo: Flazingo Photos | Flickr 

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