Robots have become part of our domestic life: soon we will meet them also in the healthcare system. The project will use three case studies to examine whether, and if so how, we can build relationships with social robots based on trust, empathy and accountability.

Our fascination with robots is old. So are our misgivings. Science fiction has warned us of the day they will take over for more than a century. Social theorists have long been predicting the consequences of robots’ entrance into the workplace. Luddites have been warning of their impact on our lives and our relationships. And more nuanced examinations Ericka Johnson communicating with Pepperhave probed the way we think of ourselves when we think of (and with) them. Yet, for many of us, robots in that stereotypical, personified form, as a unit we interact/intra-act with on an emotional level, have stayed in the realm of science fiction. We may have a robotic vacuum cleaner at home. We may have even given that vacuum cleaner a name. But an autonomous housekeeper robot who is part of the family (à la Rosie the robot maid in The Jetsons)? Not yet.

This is about to change. Robots are starting to enter our daily life. We and our children are going to be expected to interact with robots as they perform different kinds of care for and with us at different life stages. What will that do to how we – and how the robots – think of care? And how are we going to produce accountability, trust and empathy in the relational intra-actions we have, together?

This interdisciplinary project funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation is part of WASP-HS. It brings tKatherine Harrisson with Pepperogether robot designers, computer scientists and science, and technology and society (STS) theorists experienced in ethnographic studies of affective human-machine interactions. The team will explore three cases of robots in the iterative design/early testing phase.
Case study 1: Robot tutors, Social Robotics Lab, Uppsala
Case study 2: Robot interviewer, Fur Hat, Stockholm
Case study 3: Elder care robot, Machine Perception and Interaction Lab, Örebro


External partner and Advisory team

External partner
Ginevra Castellano, Senior lecturer, Social Robotics Lab, Uppsala University

Advisory team
Brian Cantwell Smith, Reid Hoffman Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Human at the University of Toronto, Canada.
Lucy Suchman, Professor emeritus in the Sociology Department and the Centre for Science Studies at Lancaster University, UK.
Erik Sandewall, Professor emeritus, Linköping University, Sweden
Gabriel Skantze, Chief Scientist at Furhat Robotics and Professor in Speech Communication and Technology, KTH, Stockholm.
Jennifer Rhee, Associate Professor, English, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA