Several years ago, I transformed from a social psychologist into a social roboticist.
Now I spend my days studying psychological theories in the realm of small, plastic entities full of technology that sometimes look human, move like humans, talk like humans, but are most definitely not human.
I study why and how people humanize these technical systems, how we use psychological principles and rules of thumb when forming judgments about robots, and what factors determine and enable smooth interaction with them, working with colleagues from the fields of engineering, computer science, linguistics, robotics and other disciplines at CITEC, Bielefeld University (https://www.cit-ec.de/en), in a city that allegedly doesn’t even exist!
When journalists visit me in this place, though, they usually ask questions like:
- “Will robots become ubiquitous and eventually take over?”
- “Will humans lose their humanity because of the ever increasing robotic presence in future society?”
- “What are the psychological and ethical consequences of having robots at home, at work, as companions, and even surrogates for close friends and family?”
Understandably these are the sorts of questions which immediately come to mind when people think about “social robots” – robots designed to assist (and exist) in everyday life.
But these sorts of robots aren’t quite ready to rule the world – in fact they can’t even run your household yet – so it’s ok to sit back and relax.
However, the field of social robotics itself has grown into an increasingly active research environment that crosses disciplinary borders and enables researchers from diverse backgrounds to share their expertise in a concerted effort to understand and improve human-robot interaction.
Clearly, this endeavour is not feasible without a multidisciplinary perspective - a stance that I have emphasized in a recent piece (Eyssel, 2016) – and without new ideas, which is why I want to urge you to join us at our event next week at the University of Sussex, which brings together renowned scholars from the fields of psychology, engineering, and philosophy.
This BPS-funded workshop has been organised by philosophers Steve Torrance and Ron Chrisley and will address issues surrounding “Social Robotics and Human Experience”.
The one-day event will be held on April 11, 2017, and it includes two keynote talks, four invited speakers, numerous discussions, and a panel session to inform you about current scientific discourse on this topic.
All in all it should be well worth your while whether you’re a psychologist, philosopher, or simply someone who’s ready to transform into a social roboticist!
Eyssel, F. (2016). An experimental social psychological perspective on social robotics. Special Issue on Next Generation of Robots for the Next Generation of Humans?“. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 87, 363-371.