A survey of expectations about the role of robots in robot-assisted therapy for children with ASD

Subtitle:Ethical acceptability, trust, sociability, appearance, and attachment
Authors/others:Coeckelbergh, Mark (De Montfort University); Pop, Cristina; Simut, Ramona; Peca, Andreea; Pintea, Sebastian; David, Daniel; Vanderborght, Bram

The use of robots in therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) raises issues concerning the ethical and social acceptability of this technology and, more generally, about human–robot interaction. However, usually philosophical papers on the ethics of human–robot-interaction do not take into account stakeholders’ views; yet it is important to involve stakeholders in order to render the research responsive to concerns within the autism and autism therapy community. To support responsible research and innovation in this field, this paper identifies a range of ethical, social and therapeutic concerns, and presents and discusses the results of an exploratory survey that investigated these issues and explored stakeholders’ expectations about this kind of therapy. We conclude that although in general stakeholders approve of using robots in therapy for children with ASD, it is wise to avoid replacing therapists by robots and to develop and use robots that have what we call supervised autonomy. This is likely to create more trust among stakeholders and improve the quality of the therapy. Moreover, our research suggests that issues concerning the appearance of the robot need to be adequately dealt with by the researchers and therapists. For instance, our survey suggests that zoomorphic robots may be less problematic than robots that look too much like humans.

Number of pages:19
Date of publication:2015
Journal title:Science and Engineering Ethics
Peer reviewed:true
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Publication Type:Article