Tutorial at RO-MAN 2022: Robots and Society (RO-SO 2022)

Robots and Society: Ethical, social, legal, and technical perspectives on integrating social robots in the home and healthcare systems and services (RO-SO - Second Edition).

Link to the conference: https://www.smile.unina.it/ro-man2022/accepted-workshops/

TIAGo from Pal Robotics (Photo: Vegard Søyseth)
TIAGo from Pal Robotics (Photo: Vegard Søyseth)

Statement of objectives

We have recently seen the proposal of the European Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA) (European Commission, 2021a) and the New Machinery Directive (MD) (European Commission, 2021b), focusing on developing a framework for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence within Europe, laying down harmonized rules, for both AI systems with and without a physical layer (e.g., chatbots vs. robots etc.). At the same time, several initiatives on developing frameworks for ethics and AI, including robots were or are currently being developed (Fjeld et al., 2020; UNESCO Digital Library, 2021; World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology, 2017). Similarly, papers addressing roboethics (Asaro, 2006, 2007), ethics related to care robots (Bedaf & de Witte, 2017; van Wynsberghe, 2013), as well as ethical issues within robotics, robots, and human-robot interaction have been recently released, addressing various ethical aspects, both challenges and opportunities (Khaksar et al., 2021; Saplacan et al., 2021; Torresen, 2018).

At the same time, a lot of focus has been put so far on the information age, i.e., the Industry 4.0 revolution, while in the near future, the focus will be shifted to the automation age, i.e., the Industry 5.0 revolution (Seibt, 2018). However, the problem of the current policies is that they mainly address the economic impact of robotics, by mainly focusing on (physical) safety (Seibt, 2018). Research argues that current policies disregard the social and cultural implications of what it actually means that humans interact with robots over a long time span. For instance, studies show that research on robots discuss mainly physical safety (Martinetti et al., 2021). However, aspects, such as cognitive safety, should also be addressed. Similarly, other studies address the issue of designing social robots for reciprocity, or reciprocal interaction (van Wynsberghe, 2021), while others build architectures for developing social robots (Asprino et al., 2022; Dignum et al., 2018).

In other words, the time is right to investigate social robotics and human-robot interactions in order to be able to create detailed descriptive frameworks on (a)symmetric social interactions between humans and robots, that can better inform how social robotics should be regulated, as also proposed by the recent work of Hakli & Seibt, (2017), Seibt, (2018), and Seibt et al., (2020). Similarly, Seibt et al., (2020) proposed that roboticists and designers within HRI should rather focus on the notion of sociomorphism, e.g., robots that appear to be social, rather than on anthropomorphism, e.g., the robot looking humanoid.

We therefore, in this workshop, propose to discuss robots as (a)social entities and their role within human-robot (asymmetric) interactions, based on the ontology of asymmetric interaction (OASIS) from Seibt, (2018). We refer to social robots here as care robots, e.g., robots that are used in home- and healthcare settings and have the capacity to interact in a sociomorphed way, by displaying social cues, or interacting through other verbal or non-verbal language forms. Specifically, the RO-SO tutorial is an updated version of the previous tutorials (see footnote 1, 2) regarding robots, ethics, legal, and technical aspects. The tutorial focuses on providing an overview and discussing the ethical, social, legal, and technical perspectives, including challenges, dilemmas, and advantages and opportunities of integrating robots as a part of home- and healthcare systems and services. The following three questions will guide the overall objective for this tutorial, but these will not limit the talks:

  1. How does the meaning of being social and/or social change when we integrate robots as a part of the home and healthcare services? What does it mean for a robot to be social, when an asymmetric social interaction takes place between humans and robots? What are some of the risks (e.g., cognitive safety) and some of the benefits (e.g., providing social settings) when we integrate social assistive robots as a part of the home and healthcare services?
  2. How does the meaning of good care change when integrating such robots as a part of the home and healthcare services? Does good care provided by a robot imply that the robot should be social?
  3. When integrated as parts of the home and healthcare services, what are some of the ethical, legal, intellectual property, and technical challenges and opportunities with social care robots?

In order to unpack the challenge of asymmetric social Human-Robot Interaction (sHRI), we bring in specific examples that shed lights on issues of design-, engineering/technical-, and legal fields, in the near future, when intelligent care robots will be widely adopted.

Amongst others, in this workshop/tutorial, we wish to discuss the practical and theoretical issue of (informed) consent, related to a robot being social. The following questions will be discussed:

  • What is (informed) consent? What does (informed) consent mean within health and social care robots?
  • What are the practical and theoretical challenges and opportunities with the design, and implementation of (informed) consent within health and social care robots?
  • What are some of the ethical, social,  and legal implications of (informed) consent within HRI?
  • What are the morality consideration of intellectual property protection on robots used in health and social care?

At the same, the tutorial will address and discuss how the Universal Design (UD) principles (Story, Mueller, and Mace 1998) can act as a tool to enhance our understanding about designing social care robots and human-robot interaction. UD is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” principles (Story, Mueller, and Mace 1998, p. 2). UD incorporates seven principles (equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, size and space for approach and use). These principles have been utilized for a long time in the design of the physical environment for the individuals with physical limitations. Lately, these were also applied to the design of web- and mobile interfaces and demonstrated to useful for improving the accessibility and usability of these interfaces.

Under the umbrella of UD, the tutorial/workshop will incorporate discussions around whether or how the sociomorphism or the sociality of robots might be enhanced through the UD principles, and whether it may improve the human-robot interaction. In particular, the workshop/tutorial exercise will show why, how, and when these principles can be important and significant for robot designers, roboticists, engineers, and others working within robotics field, human-robot interaction, or other related fields. These topics will be exemplified with substantial examples from current or past research projects.

In other words, the tutorial will address the overall objective of addressing the concept of social robots guided by the initial stated questions see through the perspectives of:

  1. Ethical and social perspectives
  2. Legal and intellectual property (IP) perspectives, and
  3. Technical perspective

The co-organizers and speakers of this tutorial have extensive experience from their field, including robotics, universal design, law, and digital ethics. Please, see their short bios (Speakers, organizers and schedule section).

Finally, the tutorial will build on our ongoing “Vulnerability in the Robot Society (VIROS)” research project where we address the topics of the tutorial in an interdisciplinary way. That is, we try to contribute to the development technology and proposals for regulatory measures in parallel to reduce vulnerabilities regarding robotics. The focus is on privacy, security and safety, particularly in healthcare contexts.

Intended audience

This tutorial's intended audience is junior and senior academics and companies and other organizations interested in different aspects of the integration of robots in healthcare systems and services.

Statement of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity

The tutorial aims to provide:

  • asynchronous access to materials,
  • synchronous and asynchronous forms of interaction, discussions, or Q&A (e.g., speech and text-based)
  • a webpage dedicated to the event
  • session timing details provided well in advance for planning purposes, and
  • inclusive time zone schedule display.
  • The organizers will collect the audience's opinions using an interactive tool (e.g., Kahoot!). The participants in this tutorial will be able to respond using their smartphones to answer multiple-choice quizzes.
  • If the event is organized virtually, the participants will have the possibility to ask questions through chat, which will be answered either directly on chat or live. Polls will be collected among the attendees.
  • The organizers will potentially provide small break-out rooms for discussion, if available.


This work is partially supported by The Research Council of Norway as a part of: the Vulnerability in the Robot Society (VIROS) project under grant agreement 288285,  the Predictive and Intuitive Robot Companion (PIRC) project under grant agreement 312333, Collaboration on Intelligent Machines (COINMAC) project, under grant agreement 309869 and through its Centres of Excellence scheme, RITMO with Project No. 262762


Footnote 1: See Prof. Jim Tørresen’s list of tutorials, workshops and talks: https://jimtoer.no/Invited_talks_tutorials.pdf 

Footnote 2: RO-SO tutorial, first edition: https://ro-man2021.org/program/workshops-and-tutorials-2/


Asaro, M. P. (2006). What Should We Want from A Robot Ethic? IRIE International Review of Information Ethics, 6(12/2006), 9–16. https://peterasaro.org/writing/Asaro%20IRIE.pdf

Asaro, M. P. (2007). Robots and Responsibility from a Legal Perspective. Proceedings of the IEEE 2007 International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 5. https://peterasaro.org/writing/ASARO%20Legal%20Perspective.pdf

Asprino, L., Ciancarini, P., Nuzzolese, A. G., Presutti, V., & Russo, A. (2022). A reference architecture for social robots. Journal of Web Semantics, 72, 100683. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.websem.2021.100683

Dignum, V., Dignum, F., Vazquez-Salceda, J., Clodic, A., lie, Gentile, M., Mascarenhas, S., & Augello, A. (2018). Design for Values for Social Robot Architectures. Envisioning Robots in Society – Power, Politics, and Public Space, 43–52. https://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-931-7-43

European Commission. (2021a). Europe fit for the Digital Age: Artificial Intelligence [Text]. European Commission - European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_1682

European Commission. (2021b, April 21). Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on machinery products. https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/45508

Fjeld, J., Achten, N., Hilligoss, H., Nagy, A., & Srikumar, M. (2020). Principled Artificial Intelligence: Mapping Consensus in Ethical and Rights-Based Approaches to Principles for AI (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3518482). Social Science Research Network. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3518482

Hakli, R., & Seibt, J. (2017). “Sociality and Normativity for Robots”: An Introduction. In Sociality and Normativity for Robots (pp. 1–10). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53133-5_1

Khaksar, W., Saplacan, D., & Torresen, J. (2021). Robotics and Elderly Health Care: A Review on 20 Recent Robot Systems and their Ethical Challenges (DRAFT). To Be Submitted.

Martinetti, A., Chemweno, P. K., Nizamis, K., & Fosch-Villaronga, E. (2021). Redefining Safety in Light of Human-Robot Interaction: A Critical Review of Current Standards and Regulations. Frontiers in Chemical Engineering, 0. https://doi.org/10.3389/fceng.2021.666237

Saplacan, D., Khaksar, W., & Torresen, J. (2021). On Ethical Challenges Raised by Care Robots: A Review of the Existing Regulatory-, Theoretical-, and Research Gaps. Proceedings of The 20th International Conference in Advanced Robotics and Its Social Impacts, 8. https://doi.org/10.1109/ARSO51874.2021.9542844

Seibt, J. (2018). Classifying Forms and Modes of Co-Working in the Ontology of Asymmetric Social Interactions (OASIS). Envisioning Robots in Society – Power, Politics, and Public Space, 133–146. https://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-931-7-133

Seibt, J., Vestergaard, C., & Damholdt, M. F. (2020). Sociomorphing, Not Anthropomorphizing: Towards a Typology of Experienced Sociality. Culturally Sustainable Social Robotics, 51–67. https://doi.org/10.3233/FAIA200900

Torresen, J. (2018). A Review of Future and Ethical Perspectives of Robotics and AI. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2017.00075

UNESCO Digital Library. (2021). Draft text of the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000377897

van Wynsberghe, A. (2021). Social robots and the risks to reciprocity. AI & SOCIETY. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01207-y

World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology. (2017). Report of COMEST on robotics ethics (Programme and Meeting Document SHS/YES/COMEST-10/17/2 REV; p. 64). https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000253952

Tags: Social robots, Informed consent, asymmetric interaction, universal design, care robots, social Human-Robot Interaction (sHRI), language-games, ethical aspects, legal aspects, technical aspects, intellectual property, morality
Published Apr. 22, 2022 4:42 PM - Last modified May 1, 2022 2:44 PM