The city is increasingly becoming a playground for novel robotic solutions. How can we ensure that these are developed according to human values and not just technological agendas? This question asks for a critical reflection on the role of intelligent robots in the smart city and novel design methodologies for creating desirable, democratic and empowering human-robot partnerships. The project will tackle this challenge by designing, prototyping and testing salient robot features that may enable ethically-informed forms of coexistence between humans and intelligent robots in the smart city.

The project is a collaboration between researchers of the TU Delft faculties Industrial Design Engineering (IDE), Mechanical, Maritime & Materials Engineering (3ME) and Architecture & the Built Environment (BK). This will enable the team to empirically ground this reflection by focusing on human-robot interplay in crowded environments such as station areas. We will design, develop and evaluate a prototype of a soft electronically-controllable shell for a selected robotic platform, which will give the robot the capability to interact with nearby people by gentle tactile contact.

The main theme of a human-robot partnership for the smart city informed by ethical values of “civicness” will be addressed as a novel design paradigm, with the intent of fostering a reflection on alternative ways of looking at urban robotics and their relationship with humans. We aim at contributing to different disciplines, such as Design Research, Human-Robot Interaction and Urban Studies, and to the vision of the DDfV institute by:

  • Reflecting on the values embodied in the form of robot customisations for eliciting collaborative interactions with humans;
  • Practically exploring whether and how the design elicits the desired partnerships between robots and humans;
  • Generating insights on civic behavior and values from experiments in real-world public settings.


  • Roy Bendor
    Roy Bendor
    Assistent professor at Industrial Design
  • Maria Luce Lupetti
    Maria Luce Lupetti
    Postdoctoral Researcher at Industrial Design
  • Elisa Giaccardi
    Elisa Giaccardi
    Professor of Interactive Media Design
  • Marco Rozendaal
    Marco Rozendaal
    Assistant Professor Interaction Design
  • Kees Kaan
    Kees Kaan
    Professor of Complex Projects at Architecture
  • Manuela Triggianese
    Manuela Triggianese
    Researcher & Lecturer at Architecture

Other researchers involved:

  • Michal Čàp, Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
  • Javier Alonso Mora, Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering