Robotic Engineering: A Gender wise perspective

By: Aamarpali Puri

Does it matter if a robot looks a male or a female? You might not think so, but are we perpetuating stereotypes if we create a robot that looks “feminine” to help the elderly.Act like a girl and be a man [1]. Making of a real robot requires a proper knowledge of all the factors including content of communication, appearance and non verbal behavior of human being. The robot in a house will be like a family member and not a machine. In our lives gender is a fundamental part of how people understand and respond to one another. Implication of gender of robots is needed as a part of our social systems.

A number of social robots have been made who closely resemble humans. Like humans they have face,arms,legs, wheels, joints, hands and fingers for gripping.  They have cameras and they can sense ultrasounds. It just needs to tilt its head to answer queries. Robots are working for transportation of ore in underground mines, navigation under Deep Ocean, cleaning up of nuclear waste and all those areas which are difficult for humans to access.At home without human help robots cane be used for vacuum cleaning, lawn mowing, laundry etc.Robots can also help in criminal investigations. Earlier robots were designed to be gender neutral, but that’s not how most people perceived it. Robots tend to default to male.

In some cases non humanoid robots are well suited like driving robots would need to operate the steering wheel and brakes or surgical robots capable of doing precise brain operations.

For some services like domestic help people prefer assistance robots that look like human. A humanoid robot influence human behavior: trust, credibility and engagement. It is found that people prefer female voices. The gender of robot is determined not by the types of sexual organs but by the use of a pre recorded masculine or feminine voice. By changing certain properties of the robot, such as gender [2], to suit a particular patient might be the difference between acceptance and rejection.Another study found that people preferred security guard [3] robots with male identities.

Gender is sometimes referred to as the sex of the brain. In some circumstances, an individual’s sex and gender do not align, and result is sometimes a transgender person. Future may lead to development of such robots.

We are creating a new generation of machines to interact as frequently, and as intimately, as we do our co-workers and friends, we should not cage Robots in the same unimaginative and restrictive gender expectations that we human are still struggling to free ourselves from today                                 — Laura Dattaro


  2. Siegel, M., C. Breazeal, and M.I.Norton. “ Persuasive Robotics: The Influence of Robot gender on human behavior.” Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEEE/RSJ International Conference on 2009. 2563-2568.

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