Social Robots – Introduction AGYA

Potentials and limitations in Arab and German societies

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 going to research the development of social robots that are able to recognize as well as interpret human facial expressions and gestures and can match their own actions to them.

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

Copyright AGYA

With the comparative study conducted in this AGYA project, we aim to carry out a pilot study for future international projects in the area of social robotics. Based on the findings of an introductory Delphi study, we will execute an international survey focusing on the acceptance of social robots. With participants from European and Arab countries, the responses will present a wide spectrum of perceptions.

The project will address questions as: Do people from Arab countries prefer robotic companions in housekeeping functions while people in Germany prefer them as caregivers? Are there different perceptions related to gender? Does the acceptance of social robots correlate positively with income and education? The findings will also 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, a conference will be organized which is dedicated solely to this project. This event will bring together leading experts in the field of robotics to discuss the results of the pilot study and offer a platform for future collaboration on an institutional and a personal level between Arab and European participants.