A prior project found that an intensive (12 weeks, thrice weekly sessions) in-person, supervised, exercise coaching intervention was effective for smoking cessation among depressed women smokers. However, the sample was 90% White and of high socioeconomic status, and the intensity of the intervention limits its reach. One approach to intervention scalability is to deliver the supervised exercise coaching using a robotic human exercise trainer. This is done in real time via an iPad tablet placed on a mobile robotic wheel base and controlled remotely by an iOS device or computer. As an initial step, this preliminary study surveyed potential receptivity to a robotic-assisted exercise coaching intervention among 100 adults recruited in two community settings, and explored the association of technology acceptance scores with smoking status and other demographics. Participants watched a brief demonstration of the robot-delivered exercise coaching and completed a 19-item survey assessing socio-demographics and technology receptivity measured by the 8-item Technology Acceptance Scale (TAS). Open-ended written feedback was obtained, and content analysis was used to derive themes from these data. Respondents were: 40% female, 56% unemployed, 41% racial minority, 38% current smoker, and 58% depression history. Mean total TAS score was 34.0 (SD = 5.5) of possible 40, indicating overall very good receptivity to the robotic-assisted exercise intervention concept. Racial minorities and unemployed participants reported greater technology acceptance than White (p = 0.015) and employed (p<0.001) respondents. No association was detected between the TAS score and smoking status, depression, gender or age groups. Qualitative feedback indicated the robot was perceived as a novel, motivating, way to increase intervention reach and accessibility, and the wave of the future. Robotic technology has potential applicability for exercise coaching in a broad range of populations, including depressed smokers. Our next step will be to conduct a pilot trial to assess acceptability and potential efficacy of the robotic-assisted exercise coaching intervention for smoking cessation.
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