Stressed out Brits want robots and virtual assistants to pick up the slack

Lynsey Barber
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Handing over some chores to tech is ok for many people (Source: Getty)

Overloaded Brits are increasingly willing to let technology pick up the slack of modern life, with more than half of us happy to hand over control to robots and virtual assistants.

Making appointments and getting a smart coffee machine to order refills are just some of the tasks which people said they were willing to give up to technology, according to a global survey of nearly 5,000 consumers by advertising agency JWT.

More than three quarters said they agreed that technology put them more in control and nearly a quarter already do use the technology by letting a virtual assistant or automated machine book flights for them.

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“Until recently robots and AI were often thought of as negative, however our report shows that many people have changed their opinion," said Marie Stafford, European director of JWT's innovation group.

"From monitoring their heart rates to knowing how much milk is left in the fridge, new technology can make all our lives easier.”

The research identified that 29 per cent of Brits are "digital directors" or "digital delegators" - people making an active choice to use smart technology to handle their day-to-day to do list and are excited by the idea of greater automation. The directors are likely to be technically savvy, young, affluent and living in urban areas, while delegators are more laid back, suburbanites looking for convenience to maximise their time.

However, control over personal data privacy was still a concern, with the willingness of people handing over control going hand-in-hand with a rise in people finding technology "creepy" with its increased knowledge of who we are and our habits.

While government tracking, drones and wearable technology creeped out more people, it is geo-location technology, voice recognition and voice mapping which are among those which we feel increasingly unsettled about.

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"If we have this cognitive, sophisticated technology that knows me, knows what I want, knows what I don't want, it's making life easier, and we don't misuse the information, that's going to be great," said Dr Itiel Dror, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London.

The research concludes that there needs to be informed consent and that businesses and brands should be more accommodating of people's personal data wishes - what they are and are not willing to share - in a tailored way. 87 per cent of Brits said that companies should agree to their personal terms and conditions if they wanted to make use of their data, rather than vice-versa.

"Transparency and clarity on privacy will be crucial," said the report. "The onus will be on brands to demonstrate their credentials in this space, as responsible data policies and stewardship become differentiators. Infusing a sense of control over data in the brand experience will be key to building trust with consumers."