Attending Robo-Philosophy

robo2018_bannerbig.jpgLast week I attended the Robo-Philosopohy conference hosted by University of Vienna. The conference theme was:  Envisioning Robots In Society: Politics, Power, And Public Space. I was delighted by the 2 keynotes  I manged to attend by Guy Standing and Hiroshi Ishiguro (very unfortunately I missed the keynote of Joanna Bryson, but I have already heard 2 brilliant keynotes from her at other venues!). Also the talks and workshops offered me new and different perspectives on my work in Human-Robot Interaction. I hope in future to see an even closer collaboration of philosophy and robotics…we need a way to implement these thoughts in actual AI systems. One of the promising talks on how to bring social practices and robotics closer together was given by Aurelie Clodic from CNRS-LAAS.

Unfortunately, for personal reasons I could not give my announced talk entitled:

Laundry and Garbage collection – a reasonable scenario for a care facility robot?  

However, if you are interested in my thoughts, I am happy to share my audio supplemented slides with you!


Social Robotics in the United Arab Emirates

alshaya_uaeSo last week, my husband, the little one and I spent some time in the desert. More precisely in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain). I attended the 3rd Joint UAE Symposium on Social Robotics as invited speaker (

The Emirates itself were an amazing experience. Visiting a university that has a female and male campus and the lecture room a female and male entrance was a very new experience for me. In general culturally the emirates and their short history as a nation were more than fascinating for me (my sociological roots came through again making me curious on the societal developments of this culture…I could spend days reading up on it and watching documentaries).

Besides the fact that all the sunshine and the warm temperatures were more than healthy for my body and soul, the symposium was really interesting  and offered an open floor for discussion on social robotics. My talk was entitled: Sociability vs Utility – Where are we heading in Social Robotics? Here is the abstract:

My talk will focus around a question that is recently more and more present in my head: What are actual useful tasks for Social Robots in future? I will present an overview on my 10 years of research on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). Being a sociologist in training, I have started my work in HRI in trying to define from a sociological perspective, if robots can be social by definition. I will explain to what degree robots can fulfil the sociological criteria of “social”, namely forms of grouping, binding, mutuality, and reflexivity. I will continue with the presentation of use cases for Social Robotics in projects I was involved and will reflect on the usefulness of the robot’s task in relation to the focus on social cues for intuitive and natural interaction. I will present selected studies of the FP7 EU project “The Interactive Urban Robot (IURO)” and FP7 EU project “HOBBIT – The mutual care robot. The goal of IURO was to find the way to a designated place in town without any previous map knowledge, just by retrieving information from asking pedestrians for directions. The goal of the Hobbit robot was to enable older people to stay longer in their homes, following three main criteria: (1) Emergency detection and handling, (2) fall prevention, (3) providing a “feeling of being safe and supported”. Reflecting on these exemplary studies will lead to the ethical implications of Social Robot design, especially the potential risks involved when designing robots that show “artificial attachment”. I will present the Triple-A Model for ethical risk identification including a first taxonomy we developed in order to classify existing Social Robotics use cases. My talk will close with a discussion on how the utility of a robot and its sociability interrelate and on future application areas for Social Robots. This will involve thoughts on (1) how technology determinism shapes our use cases for Social Robotics, (2) why sociability is not self-sufficient for a robot to be accepted and sustainably used, and (3) how we can take a step back and think a bit more out of the box what reasonable useful jobs Social Robots could do for us in future, going beyond the multi-functional housekeeper scenario.


HRI 2017 in retrospect

So this is it. HRI2017 is finally over. 1.5 years of dedicated work together with Jim Young to put together the best program possible. At least Jim and I are happy with how the program turned out in the end. Clearly, there are some points we wished we could have done differently (eg. having a dedicated video session, having longer companion sessions etc.).

When I received one of the two service awards yesterday (second one went well-deserved to my colleague Markus Bajones!), I was so surprised that I did not say the following I want to share now:

How was it possible for me to be program co-chair while being pregnant and giving birth:

1. I have an incredibly supportive husband
2. From May 2016 onwards I put down almost all other duties (teaching, reviewing, proposal writing etc.)
3. My co-chair Jim Young was incredibly supportive from day one in January, when I told him I was pregnant and can no longer be his co-chair. He convinced me that we can make it work and reduced my workload in times when it would just have been too much.

That was lived gender mainstreaming and he deserves a lot of credit for that, besides all the great work he did for the PC.

So I consider this a shared award for the two of us!

Proceedings of STS Graz 2016 are online

I hardly ever do this, but in that specific case I want to call your attention to one of my recently published papers, entitled:

It was published in the framework of the 15th Annual STS Conference Graz 2016 Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies.

This is a reflection that constantly accompanies my thoughts on HRI research and I would be happy about any comments and thoughts from fellow researchers. Just drop me a line in case… 🙂

Invited Panellist: ForGenderCare

csm_fgc_Verbund_76fe5c1a04I was invited to contribute to a panel and workshop discussion on the interrelations between gender, care, and assistive technology, which took place last week in Munich, Germany. The workshop was hosted by the “Forschungsverbund ForGenderCare”, which studies from an interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical perspective how gender and care play together.

I gave insights from my experiences within the GENUINE and the HOBBIT project. Our main discussion points in the breakout sessions were,

(1) if user-centered design research in HRI is technic-deterministic.
(2) how to better relate STS research and HRI research to guarantee a better up-take of interdisciplinary research endeavours.

HRI2017: Call for Papers

Also check out the guide to submission types!

The ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction is a premiere, highly-selective venue presenting the latest advances in Human-Robot Interaction. The 12th Annual HRI Conference theme is “Smart Interaction,” following Vienna’s “Smart City” initiative. The conference seeks contributions from a broad set of perspectives, including technical, design, methodological, behavioral, and theoretical, that advance fundamental and applied knowledge and methods in human-robot interaction. Full papers will be archived in the ACM Digital Library and IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

More information on other tracks, including alt.HRI papers, Late-Breaking Reports, Tutorials, Workshops, Demonstrations and Videos, will be available soon.

Important Dates:

  • 3 October 2016 (11:59 PDT): Submission of Full Papers
  • 8-12 November 2016: Author Rebuttal Period
  • 21 November 2016: Notification of Full Paper Acceptance
  • 4 January, 2016: Final Camera-Ready Full Papers Due

Trip Report STS Conference Graz 2016

Last week I attended the 15th Annual STS Conference Graz 2016 on Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies. turm It was a great experience taking part in a more sociological event again. A very different type of discussion and contents compared to the robotics and HCI events I usually attend. I gave an invited talk on my user-centered HRI research at the Robotics and Society Panel organized by Andreas Bischof and Arne Maibaum. We had great discussions about how to link STS, sociology and robotics and I enjoyed talking to Diego Compagna and Martin Meister again. One of my favourite talks was a presentation on “The rise of disaster robotics in South Korea”. It was a wonderful meta reflection on the co-production of science, technology, and the impact of mass media. Besides that I enjoyed the keynote of Prof. Ingo Schulz-Schaeffer who talked about scenario usage and development in ubiquitous computing. And I was positively surprised that there is a Department of Social Sciences at the Technical University of Berlin…maybe I should establish something like that at Vienna University of Technology as well…;)