Why Robots Are Better Than Humans At Testing Human User Experiences

Device-testing robots type, draw and play games on the gadgets they’re testing.

Robot Arm

A robotic arm made by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects, not the same as the robot model used belowU.S. Food and Drug Administration on Flickr

Who would you want to test your touchscreen device? Maybe an older adult, to ensure it's intuitive even to someone who isn't a digital native? Maybe a kid, who's got high expectations for modern tech? Well, Intel doesn't use a person at all, MIT Technology Review reports. Instead, it uses robots to evaluate how much people will like new devices.

Unlike people, robots are tireless and provide exact numerical feedback on flaws, the magazine reports. For example, Intel's robots do stuff like type and play cell phone games on a testing device while training a camera on the screen and recording data on how the screen responds to the robot's finger. All major technology companies use testing robots, but don't talk about it for fear of giving away an advantage to a competitor, Jason Huggins, co-founder of an app-testing company called Sauce Labs, told MIT Technology Review.

Check out the full article for other ways robots beat human testers. There’s also a great video of one of the Intel robots pinching to zoom, drawing with a stylus and otherwise using a cellphone much like you do, except with really perfect lines. Does a robot playing a cellphone game win every time? It depends, Intel engineer Eddie Raleigh tells the magazine. Engineers can program the robots to win all the time, or just sometimes.