Should my robot know what's best for me? Human–robot interaction between user experience and ethical design

AI and Society 37 (2):517-533 (2022)

Abstract

To integrate social robots in real-life contexts, it is crucial that they are accepted by the users. Acceptance is not only related to the functionality of the robot but also strongly depends on how the user experiences the interaction. Established design principles from usability and user experience research can be applied to the realm of human–robot interaction, to design robot behavior for the comfort and well-being of the user. Focusing the design on these aspects alone, however, comes with certain ethical challenges, especially regarding the user’s privacy and autonomy. Based on an example scenario of human–robot interaction in elder care, this paper discusses how established design principles can be used in social robotic design. It then juxtaposes these with ethical considerations such as privacy and user autonomy. Combining user experience and ethical perspectives, we propose adjustments to the original design principles and canvass our own design recommendations for a positive and ethically acceptable social human–robot interaction design. In doing so, we show that positive user experience and ethical design may be sometimes at odds, but can be reconciled in many cases, if designers are willing to adjust and amend time-tested design principles.

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Wulf Loh
University Tübingen

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