Rebecca Wald joined CcaM in September 2020 as a PhD student on the project "In Rosie We Trust? Virtual Assistants in Families". Virtual assistants, defined as applications that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to understand voice command and carry out tasks for users, are becoming increasingly accessible around the globe and especially within the context of families with young children, just as the animated US-sitcom The Jetsons illustrated already in the early 60s. Yet, respective scientific research is lacking.
This project is built upon the assumption that a robust understanding of VAs in families requires (1) understanding agency in the use of technology and subsequently the formation of trust with virtual assistants and (2) identifying ways to ensure adequate trust in order to mitigate potential threats and support human-centric AI. To address this objective, this project bridges two theories – one of individual differences in media effects, and one of AI approach, adoption, and trust – across three studies (cross-sectional survey; large-scale content analysis; longitudinal data donation + intervention) to robustly understand the process of agency and trust formation with VAs in families. Using a preregistered open-science framework, we hope to form implications for future work on technological trust formation that will stretch beyond the domain of Virtual Assistants.