Researchers at Pennsylvania State University in the US have developed a tissue box that speaks. The smart tissue box says "bless you", "here, take a tissue" or "take care" when a person around it sneezes.
The smart tissue box and other innovative ideas, like a refrigerator that tells people when they should buy milk, were presented at a tech conference in Paris.
"Smart objects will become more and more a part of our daily lives," study lead S Shyam Sundar, professor of communications at Penn State said.
"We believe the next phase is that objects will start talking and interacting with humans, and our goal is to figure out the best ways for objects to communicate with humans," he added.
In order to understand how comfortable people were with devices that talk, ask and probe in a social situation, the researchers conducted an experiment.
They videotaped 63 participants and tested their reaction to the talking tissue boxes. The participants believed they were taking part in a cognitive study.
After the experiment, the participants were asked what they felt about the presence of smart objects during the experiment.
It was found that the participants reacted favourably to the smart objects and found the talking tissue box as human as the human-like robot, Science Daily reported.
"We were pleasantly surprised. We were expecting reactions that might be somewhat negative. Just using natural language goes a long way in building social human-object interaction. You don't really need to work very hard to make it look human," Sundar said.
Haiyan Jia, a doctoral candidate in mass communications who worked with Sundar, added that this experiment simply demonstrated that people will accept smart objects.
However, she also said that more research should be conducted to find out if over time people start connecting very strongly to these objects and if their attitude towards the object is affected.