Ageing populations have prompted engineers to design robots that are able to assist with various everyday needs. These robots also have the potential to help patients suffering from various disabilities, or people with reduced mobility due to an accident or stroke. However, the introduction of such devices, and the resulting human–robot interactions, have produced different reactions within societies. In this report, we sketch in three important issues regarding the use and design of service robots.
IDEAS AND DISCUSSION
The first concern is the acceptability of building a care robot in a humanoid style. We believe that there is a trade-off in this regard. On one hand, a humanoid robot facilitates trust and intuitive interaction; however, humans tend to treat a humanoid robot like a living being and may get too attached. Thus, humanoid robots may in the long run damage human affairs.
The second question to be answered is whether these robots should replace the human assistants currently overseeing patient care. The advantages of the robots are that they can provide repetitive care for longer times in a more reliable way. Nevertheless, human contact is a fundamental aspect of care and patients are more responsive to humans in certain situations. Therefore, rather than replacing human care robots should only help augment the capabilities of the human caregiver.
The final important aspect to discuss is whether such robots are invading the privacy and autonomy of the person whom they are supposed to assist. Although a robot is an object, constant monitoring and invasion of private spaces might make patients uncomfortable. Thus a robot should be personalized over time and by means of any available inputs to be able to respond better to specific patient needs, to autonomously make decisions, and to ask permission for certain actions. In addition, if doubts arise as to the proper course of action, humans should have the final decision.
Care robots that can offer various services for elderly people or people with reduced mobility have great potential to be used in hospitals, nursing houses or in apartments. They should nevertheless always aim at augmenting human care. Possible effects of dehumanizing the treatment process should be mitigated by programming the robots based on specific patient needs.
Group members: Ekin Basalp, Anna-Maria Georgarakis, Eduard Villaronga, Jan Burri, Fabienne Forster, Vanessa Rampton