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Kerstin Dautenhahn– University of Waterloo, Canada


Ethical issues in robot-assisted play for children with special needs


Robot-assisted therapy for children with autism has become increasingly widespread over the past 20 years. Currently most major robotics laboratories worldwide have a project on this topic, and many encouraging results have been published. My own research team has investigated this area since the late 1990s, using different robotic platforms, ranging from machine-like to zoomorphic and humanoid robots. In a number of studies we focussed on specific therapeutic or educational goals, but a key part has been the encouragement of play, and the need to include other people, apart from the child with autism, in the interaction with robot -grounding mechanical/robotic interaction in human experience and meaning. Thus, the robot adopts the role of a social mediator. My talk will discuss some of the ethical challenges involved in the design and conduct of this research, discussing different levels of potential benefits for the children, and different roles robots can play in teaching children with special needs in general, and children with autism in particular, about communication and interaction skills.

Brief Bio:

Since August 2018 Kerstin Dautenhahn is Canada 150 Research Chair in Intelligent Robotics at University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. She is currently establishing the new Social and Intelligent Robotics Research Laboratory. Additionally, she is affiliated with the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, as Professor of Artificial Intelligence, where she had been a founder and coordinator of the Adaptive Systems Research Group since 2000 until her taking up the post at University of Waterloo. Main areas of her research are Human-Robot Interaction, Social Robotics, Socially Intelligent Agents and Artificial Life. She is Editor in Chief (jointly with Prof. Angelo Cangelosi – University of Manchester, UK) of the Journal Interaction Studies- Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems published by John Benjamins Publishing Company, Editorial Board Member of Adaptive Behavior, Sage Publications, Associate Editor of the International Journal of Social Robotics, published by Springer, Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems (previously IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development), and Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. She is an Editor of the book series Advances in Interaction Studies, published by John Benjamins Publishing Company. Prof. Dautenhahn is on the Advisory Board of the journal AI and Society (Springer). She is a member of IEEE (Senior Member), ACM, and a Lifelong Fellow of AISB, as well as a member of the Executive Board of the International Foundation for Responsible Robotics. She is also a member of the Steering Group of the Verification and Validation of Autonomous Systems EPSRC-funded Network, coordinated by Prof. Michael Fisher, Liverpool, UK. Since 2006 she has been part of the Standing Steering Committee of the IEEE conference RO-MAN (Human and Robot Interactive Communication).

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