Informal EMCO: Invited Talk


Last week, I gave an invited talk on “The Future of HRI in the care sector” at the 2018 Informal EMCO meeting. The Employment Committee of the European Commission (EMCO) is an advisory committee set up to implement the European Employment Strategy and to promote coordination between Member States on employment and labour market policies.  This year’s topic was Digitalization. Besides another talk of care robotics given by Haus der Barmherzigkeit, a tremendously informative talk was given by Sociology professor Jörg flecker (University Vienna).


PubRob 2018: Invited Talk


This week, I gave my first invited talk with my newborn son (almost 3 months) carried in the baby sling via Skype 🙂 So happy that modern technology makes it possible to contribute to academia while on parental leave.

It was an invited talk on my research on robots in public space at the PubRob 2018 workshop, which was held in conjunction with MobileHCI this year. The presented work was mainly from the EU-project IURO (during my University of Salzburg time). You can find the slides on the workshop website.

This workshop was the fifth in a series of meetings (and the fourth workshop) organised around the theme of public space human-robot interaction. Details of previous events can be found on the PubRob website.


Best paper award :)

IMG_1800Some great news: Our first publication within the SharedSpace project won the best paper ward at “Social Robots. A Workshop on the Past, the Present and the Future of Digital Companions” which took place in conjunction with  PETRA 2018, the 11th ACM Conference on Pervasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments.

My colleague and future PhD student Glenda Hannibal (she will be part of the TrustRobot PhD College) presented our work. In our paper entitled: “What makes people accept or reject companion robots: A research agenda”, we outlined our theoretical basis and methodological strategy for the SharedSpace project.

First ShardSpace Publication

buddy-family-companion-robotI am happy to announce that my first publication on my new FWF Elise-Richter project SharedSpace was accepted for publication for a workshop held in conjunction with PETRA2018:

Social Robots. A Workshop on the Past, the Present and the Future of Digital Companions

The paper outlines the research agenda of the project and the underlying sociological framework. It is co-authored with Glenda Hannibal, who will also present the work at the workshop in Corfu in June.

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.