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.