03/09/2016 12:21 EST | Updated 03/09/2016 12:59 EST

Poll On Attitudes Towards Robots Finds Canadians As Pessimistic As It Gets

Nowhere is the world's robotic future more controversial than in Canada.

In a new global poll from travel site Travelzoo, Canadians were the least likely to agree that robots will make people’s lives better.

A majority of Canadians — 63 per cent — say robots will improve their lives, but that's still a lower percentage than in other surveyed countries. Seventy-one per cent of Americans and 97 per cent of Chinese respondents expect robots to make things better.

Worldwide, the survey found eight in 10 people expect robots to play a big role in their lives by 2020, and three-quarters expect the role to be positive.

Canadians are also near the top of the heap when it comes to worrying that robots will take their jobs: 84 per cent said they are worried about the prospect, with only the Spanish (88 per cent) showing more concern.

robot survey

The survey found a notable gap between Western and Asian attitudes towards robots. While more than three-quarters of westerners expressed worry about robots taking their jobs, that number dropped to 59 per cent in Japan and 51 per cent in China.

Most Agree Human-Looking Robots Creepy

Only in China do a majority of people want robots to look like people, the survey found, with 76 per cent saying they prefer human-looking machines.

Fifty per cent of Spaniards want human-looking robots but “respondents from all other countries (including Canada) prefer robots looking like machines,” the survey found.

toshiba chihira juncho

Toshiba has built three human-looking "communciation androids," two of which are already at work at a Tokyo hotel and shopping mall. Pictured here is the Jihira Juncho model. A majority of people worldwide don't want human-looking robots. (Photo: Toshiba)

The survey looked specifically at attitudes towards robots in the travel industry, and found people overall would accept interacting with robots, so long as there’s still a human touch.

“Consumers still want humans in the picture, as otherwise there is a genuine fear that cultural nuances, humour and irony will be missed,” Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s European president, said in a statement.

“If we don’t respect the desire for the human touch, we risk ‘robophobia’ setting in, when in fact technology can significantly improve the holiday experience when used appropriately.”

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