Mitigating loneliness with companion robots in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: An integrative framework and research agenda

Gaby Odekerken-Schröder, Cristina Mele, Tiziana Russo-Spena, Dominik Mahr, Andrea Ruggiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose
Loneliness and isolation are on the rise, globally threatening the well-being across age groups; global social distancing measures during the COVID-19 crisis have intensified this so-called “loneliness virus”. The purpose of this paper is to develop an integrative framework and research agenda on the role of companion robots in mitigating feelings of loneliness.
Design/methodology/approach
A netnographic analysis of 595 online visual and textual descriptions offer empirical insights about the role of the companion robot Vector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Findings
The contributions of this study are twofold. First, it postulates that companion robots have the potential of mitigating feelings of loneliness (i.e. indicator of well-being). Second, this study contributes to transformative service by developing an integrative framework introducing the roles (personal assistant, relational peer and intimate buddy) that companion robots can fulfill to mitigate feelings of loneliness through building different types of supportive relationships.
Research limitations/implications
The proposed research agenda encourages future service scholars to investigate 1) the role of robots in addressing loneliness, 2) design features that drive adoption of robots, 3) social support for different groups, 4) the operationalization and the measurement of loneliness and 5) an impact analysis of companion robots.
Practical implications
Service providers and policy makers can leverage the insights about how companion robots can help reduce a sense of loneliness.
Originality/value
The integrative framework on loneliness reduction, based on 595 unprompted online contributions issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, offers initial evidence for the impact of companion robots in reducing people's feelings of loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Service Management
ISSN1757-5818
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25.08.2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Keywords

  • 512 Business and Management
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • companion robots
  • well-being
  • loneliness
  • netnography
  • transformative service research

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