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Service robotics: do you know your new companion? Framing an interdisciplinary technology assessment

DOI: 10.1007/s10202-011-0098-6

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Abstract:

Service-Robotic—mainly defined as “non-industrial robotics”—is identified as the next economical success story to be expected after robots have been ubiquitously implemented into industrial production lines. Under the heading of service-robotic, we found a widespread area of applications reaching from robotics in agriculture and in the public transportation system to service robots applied in private homes. We propose for our interdisciplinary perspective of technology assessment to take the human user/worker as common focus. In some cases, the user/worker is the effective subject acting by means of and in cooperation with a service robot; in other cases, the user/worker might become a pure object of the respective robotic system, for example, as a patient in a hospital. In this paper, we present a comprehensive interdisciplinary framework, which allows us to scrutinize some of the most relevant applications of service robotics; we propose to combine technical, economical, legal, philosophical/ethical, and psychological perspectives in order to design a thorough and comprehensive expert-based technology assessment. This allows us to understand the potentials as well as the limits and even the threats connected with the ongoing and the planned implementation of service robots into human lifeworld—particularly of those technical systems displaying increasing grades of autonomy.

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