Preparing to Design Robots for Social Contexts

April 25, 2022

by Clint Andrews for IEEE.org

Educational programs in robotics have focused mostly on developing science, technology, engineering, and math skills, with recent extensions into the arts [1]. This focus has been entirely appropriate, until recently. Successful roboticists have been generalists with a specialty [2] whose careers involve both thinking and doing. Thinking (“investigative”) and doing (“realistic”) are personality traits that, when strongly correlated, predict success in computer science, engineering, and, by interpolation, robotics [3]. Industry voices confirm that roboticists need skills in systems thinking, a programming mindset, active learning, mathematics, science or other applied mathematics, judgment and decision making, good cross-disciplinary communication, technology design, complex problem solving, and persistence [4]. This list is adequate for many applications of robotic autonomous systems (“robots”).

However, robots increasingly operate among people, and they now work alongside us in factories and warehouses, share our streets and sidewalks, clean our homes, and care for the most vulnerable among us [5]. These emerging social contexts add new requirements to the knowledge that successful roboticists need.

Technology and Society, April 22, 2022

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