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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondHello, my name is Vanessa Evers. I'm a professor of social robotics at the University of Twente. I'm here to talk to you today about social robots and social robotics. Social robots are robots that can recognize human behavior automatically, interpret that behavior, reason about it, and then respond appropriately in any social situation. So they have to interact seamlessly and naturally with people. You may be familiar with robots like vacuum cleaner robots or robots that cut the grass or robots that are in factories, robot arms. We don't really see them as social robots because they don't interact with people socially.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 secondsThey don't recognize the social situation that people are in, whether people are fighting, where there's a little family in front of them, and they don't really respond socially with either speech or with multi-modal interaction. Multi-modal interaction is speech as well as nonverbal behaviors. An example of a social robot could be a museum robot that guides people around. The museum robot will need to know that people belong together and will need to know what people are interested in. And then offer them information accordingly. Another example is a robot that understands whether people are fighting or whether people are just dancing together and is able to know the difference. For instance, for a security robot.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsOne example of a social robot that we've been working on is the Spencer robot. Spencer robot is meant to guide people in airports. The Spencer robot can recognize whether people belong together or not. So for instance, if you're making a photo of two other people, the robot will know that there is interaction between those people and it will drive around them and it won't drive through your photo.

What kind of relationship can you have with a social robot?

In this video Vanessa Evers introduces you to social robots. Vanessa Evers is a full professor of Human Media Interaction at the University of Twente and Science Director of the DesignLab at the University of Twente. Her research focuses on Human Interaction with Autonomous Agents such as robots or machine learning systems and cultural aspects of Human Computer Interaction. In this video she explains that social robots are not just instruments that perform specific tasks. Rather, they are mediators of practices.

A museum guide robot is not just a fancy source of information. By helping to shape people’s interactions, and for instance directing people’s attention, it influences the experience of being in a museum. A robot to teach autistic children is not just an interesting addition to a human teacher, but it reorganises the relations between pupil and teacher.

To design robots that work with humans you need to take into account their impact on humans, so this is a question that occupies Vanessa Evers is a very specific way.

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Philosophy of Technology and Design: Shaping the Relations Between Humans and Technologies

University of Twente

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