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

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Web of Science)

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
Pages (from-to)1149-1162
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Service Management
Volume31
Issue number6
Early online date25 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • Companion robots
  • Well-being
  • Loneliness
  • Netnography
  • Transformative service research
  • ONLINE HEALTH COMMUNITIES
  • SOCIAL SUPPORT
  • SERVICE RESEARCH
  • NETNOGRAPHY
  • INTENTIONS
  • BEHAVIORS
  • CONSUMERS
  • HOME

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