A roboethics framework for the development and introduction of social assistive robots in elderly care

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Espingardeiro, AMMC
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: body regions

There is an emerging “aging phenomenon” worldwide. It is likely that we will require the introduction of assistive technologies that can assist caregivers in the exercise of elderly care. Such technologies should be designed in ways that promote high levels of human dignity and quality of life through the aging process. Social Assistive Robots (SARs) demonstrate high potential for complementing elderly care when it comes to cognitive assistance, entertainment, communication and supervision. However such close Human Robotics Interactions (HRIs) encompass a rich set of ethical scenarios that need to be addressed before SARs are introduced into mass markets. To date the HRI benchmarks of “Imitation”, “Safety”, “Autonomy”, “Privacy”, “Scalability”, “Social success” and “Understanding of the domain” are the only guidelines to inform SARs developers when developing robotic prototypes for human assistance. However such HRI benchmarks are broad and lack of theoretical background to understand potential ethical issues in elderly care. Further, there is little guidance for either developers or those involved in the provision of care, regarding the appropriate introduction of SARs.\ud In this research the current HRI benchmarks are reviewed alongside the core ethical principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice, together with a social care ethos. Based on such interpretation, practical robotics workshops were conducted in five care and extra care institutions with the direct participation of elderly groups, caregivers and relatives. “In-situ” robotics demonstrations, informal interviews and observations were conducted, investigating human behaviours, attitudes, expectations, concerns, and levels of acceptance towards the introduction of SARs in elderly care settings. Following a thematic analysis of the findings, a roboethics framework is proposed to support the research and development of SARs. The developed framework highlights the importance of selection, categorization and completion of relevant HRI benchmarks, HRI templates, HRI supervision schemes and ethical specifications for SARs applications.
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