The integration of AI and robotics into consumer products has revolutionized daily life by enabling the outsourcing of tasks, liberating valuable time. We aim to explore how technology’s unprecedented time-saving potential can influence subjective well-being.

While existing research has primarily focused on technology adoption within controlled and artificial settings, our project seeks to extend this work by examining the real-world usage of autonomous products over time, including its implications for well-being. By distributing up to 200 autonomous products to households and combining objective usage data with diary studies, we aim to offer a comprehensive view of the impact of time-saving technologies on people’s lives and well-being in their natural environment.

Background and Project Information

The advent of AI and robotics has significantly transformed the way individuals lead their lives. Technological advancements have enabled consumers to outsource entire chores and tasks, saving time in an unprecedented manner. Take robotic vacuum cleaners, which take over cleaning and allow us to spend the saved time elsewhere.

Recent research has begun to explore the impact of these emerging technologies on individuals’ lives, focusing on the conditions of their adoption and utilization. In doing so, the existing body of work has predominantly concentrated on short-term assessments within controlled and often artificial settings. In this research project, we seek to build upon and extend this prior work by conducting an in-depth investigation that spans actual usage over multiple weeks within a realistic field context.

Instead of focusing on adoption, we turn towards technology usage and its implications for the increasingly relevant topic of well-being. Despite the profound impact of technologies, we still know little about the interplay of technology usage and subjective well-being. Given that new technologies might save time on an unprecedented scale and a well-established link between time savings and well-being, we investigate whether, and if so, how, technology can exert a positive influence on human well-being.

Research Approach

To deliver a full picture of time-saving technologies’ implications for subjective well-being, we will use one of the most widespread autonomous products of this kind – robotic vacuum cleaner. We will distribute up to 200 of these devices to European households and track their usage over a period of multiple weeks. The objective usage data will be complemented by a so-called diary study, where we repeatedly ask our participants to report their well-being. Taken together, we will be able to offer a comprehensive view on people’s usage of time-saving technologies in their daily life and natural environment and illuminate their impact on well-being.

Funding and Timeline

This research is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant No. 207582 with 540,814 CHF. We will conduct the main study in 2024.

Research Team

This project is based at the Institute of Behavioral Science and Technology (IBT) at the University of St. Gallen and supported by a team of internal and external collaborators.

Internal collaborators

University of St.Gallen
Prof. Dr. Emanuel de Bellis
University of St.Gallen
University of St.Gallen
Jonas Görgen
University of St.Gallen

External collaborators

University of Lausanne
Prof. Dr. Tobias Schlager
University of Lausanne
Harvard University
Prof. Dr. Ashley Whillans
Harvard University