Many Germans are open to the idea of 3D printed organs, permanent body scans and cell repairing nanorobots as part of healthcare in the future, says an international survey conducted by BR, ARTE and Fraunhofer IAO as part of the “Homo Digitalis” project. In all, more than 22,000 respondents from Germany and France took part in the online quiz, which tested their acceptance levels for new technologies.

In one future scenario, waiting for donor organs would become a thing of the past, with the necessary organs simply printed out using a 3D printer – something which the vast majority of Germans surveyed (70%) would have no problem with. Over half would also be content to undergo permanent body scanning, which would measure an individual’s blood pressure, pulse and hormone balance to keep tabs on their health status. The same went for nanorobots – tiny robots inserted into a person’s veins to perform cell repair. On the other hand, there was more noticeably more hesitation amongst respondents when they were consulted on DNA hacking or brain chips; here, only a third would use the opportunity to artificially alter their genes or get a brain “upgrade” to boost concentration, creativity or intelligence. The study did reveal that female participants as a group were more hesitant about any technological optimizations to the body. Respondents were also increasingly less likely to agree with the idea of 3D printed organs with increasing age and, for the over 60 age group, acceptance levels for this technology dropped to barely 50 percent.

Growing acceptance for robots as colleagues

For the “Homo Digitalis” project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO has joined forces with Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) and ARTE to investigate the change that digitalization might bring in various aspects of our lives. During this time, Fraunhofer IAO worked in close consultation with BR to develop an accompanying online quiz that tests people’s attitude to and acceptance for a range of potential technologies in an interactive format. Now, the recently published “Homo Digitalis” study presents the results of that online quiz and discusses their significance for tomorrow’s digitalized world.

Acceptance of future health technologies in Germany.
(c) Fraunhofer IAO

Questions addressed by the study include digital self enhancements in the health arena as well as the interaction between humans and machines in other domains, for instance the way we interact with technological aids or in a digital workplace. As an example, most Germans could imagine a robot in the workplace, but the majority of them would prefer to work together with the robots in a constructive way. In the future, then, there will be more of a need to develop collaborative robots that do not simply execute a given task, but robots capable of building a working relationship with their human counterparts. This means developing interaction strategies that define robot behaviour in a way that fosters transparency and trust.

Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO