UAEU to explore ethical side of social robotics at symposium

Roboticists, developers, and social scientists from across the globe will descend on United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in November for the second Joint UAE Symposium On Social Robotics.

The four-day event, which takes place November 20-23 at UAEU in partnership with New York University Abu Dhabi (NYU AD), will coincide with Innovation Week, a country-wide initiative set up to celebrate innovation across the Emirates.

With an emphasis on the social impact of robotics, this year’s symposium will see industry experts and educators discuss and dissect the ethical and social implications of robotics, such as codes of conduct, moral and legal obligations towards artificial companions and public policy.

 “There is one field of cognitive science that is today very important and that is cognitive robotics ­ – robots that try to approximate (simulate) the human mind,” says Dr Massimiliano Cappuccio, associate professor at UAEU’s Department of Philosophy and director of the Interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Laboratory. “In cognitive robotics, first of all you need to understand how the human mind works ­ – so cognitive functions, for example memory, perception, language processing – and the purpose is to replicate these functions in an artificial agent. There is a big effort in research and development around this. Of course we are still at the early stage and there are concerns – concerns, for example, about how robots can make decisions regarding ethical issues or decisions that can have ethical implications. The symposium aims to discuss these topics, and explore different approaches and future directions in social robotics.”

As professionals around the world ponder over the prospect of losing their job to a robot, the symposium will also explore technological unemployment and the role robots play in the workplace, from education and tourism to entertainment and healthcare. 

“People are worried that with robots becoming more and more capable to replace humans, humans will not have a real function in society anymore,” adds Cappuccio. “There are different opinions. Optimistic people believe humans will finally have the chance to dedicate their time to higher purposes and activities. We foresee that the humanities and social sciences are not going to be threatened by the rise of the robots, on the contrary.”

Designed to give delegates, attendees and students greater insight into industry trends, opportunities and challenges in robotics, this year’s event will once again see some of the greatest names in the industry and in the academia gather at UAEU, including Francesco Ferro from Pal Robotics, Lojain Jibawi from Votek, Giulio Sandini from Italian Institute of Technology and Jun Tani from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. Other speakers include John-John Cabibihan (Qatar University), Angelo Cangelosi (Plymouth University), Ron Chrisley (University of Sussex), Michael Decker (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Vanessa Evers (University of Twente), Daniel Hutto (University of Wollongong), Peyvand Khaleghian (Amana Healthcare), Amit Kumar Pandey (SoftBank Robotics / Aldebaran), Ben Robins (University of Hertfordshire), Rob Sparrow (Monash University) and Steve Torrance (University of Sussex).

Looking ahead, and Cappuccio says we can “expect some big changes” in robotics in the next few years. “Self-driving cars are ready,” he says. “Now they’re working on the policy; it’s more about how governments have to deal with theses cars. The software and artwork is there. For robots to be used in the house, it is a little bit more complicated – there are safety requirements, for example. But there are already a few social robots that interact with humans as pets.”

A recent report by Frost & Sullivan prepared in collaboration with GITEX Technology Week estimated shipments of personal and household robotics will grow from four million in 2012 to 25.4 million in 2020.


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Dec 13, 2017