Social Robots

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Potentials and Limitations

With the advances in robotics and affective computing, the relationship between robots and humans in society is changing. The combination of context-awareness, motoric skills and affective behaviour opens a wide field for robotic assistants or even robotic companions. Films like WALL-E (2008) or Her (2013) show that robots or artificial intelligence are no longer just means to an end but start to be seen as cultural entities.

However, are we ready for “social robots”?

Do areas like care, health and entertainment really benefit from machines using sensors and artificial intelligence to establish interaction with humans? They could revolutionize the way we care for elderly people, the way we teach and learn and even the way we define the concept of family or companionship.

We are researching the development of social robots, especially those with emotion sensing capabilities, for example by interpreting human facial expressions and gestures and matching their actions to them.

The focus lies on social acceptance, especially with regard to intercultural differences. While questions about limitations and ethical issues of a human-robot-cooperation have been addressed on a theoretical level, more empirical studies are required. This is especially true when it comes to intercultural studies.

Copyright AGYA

In an international comparative study supported by AGYA, we collect essential data for future international projects in social robotics. Based on the findings of a Delphi study, the international survey focues on the acceptance of social robots. With participants from European and Arab countries, the responses will present a wide spectrum of perceptions.

The project addresses questions like: Do people from Arab countries prefer robotic companions in housekeeping functions while Germans prefer them as caregivers? Are there different perceptions related to gender? Does the acceptance of social robots correlate with income or level of education? The findings will allow to identify areas of application which are both within technological reach and ethically acceptable.  Future research projects can make informed decisions on the route to take.

The results will be published in an international journal. In addition, first findings have been presented on the PETRA-conference 2018, which brings together leading experts in the field of assistive technologies and robotics.

Korn O, Bieber G, Fron C. Perspectives on Social Robots. In: Proceedings of the 11th PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments Conference on  – PETRA ’18. ACM Press; 2018. doi:10.1145/3197768.3197774