Carme Torras: Robots in healthcare--Interdisciplinary co-design and technoethics education

Plenary Session 7 | Friday, August 23, 12:50 - 13:30 | Auditorium 1 (1441-011)


Carme Torras is Research Professor at the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) since 1991. With a background in mathematics and computer science, Prof. Torras has focused her research on cognitive robotics, neurocomputing, artificial interlligence, and social robotics, as well as on the socio-cultural implications of robotics.  In acknowledgement of her contributions she has won numerous awards.  She was research leader of several large-scale European research projects on cognitive and social robotics, and has co-authored books, 149 journal papers, and about 220 conference papers and book chapters. However, Prof. Torras also has published outside of academia:  her commitment to disseminate and discuss the social implications of robotics with wide audiences has led her to write two science fiction novels and participate in eleven collective volumes, where ethical issues in technology play a key role. Her novel La mutació sentimental (Pagès Editors, 2008), winner of the Manuel de Pedrolo and Ictineu awards, has been translated into Spanish (Editorial Milenio, 2012) and into English as The Vestigial Heart (MIT Press, 2018), and published along with online materials to teach a university course on “Ethics in Social Robotics and AI”. Since 2020, she is a member of the Advisory Committee of Ethics in AI of the Catalan Government, the Ethics Committee of UPC, and Vice-President of the Ethics Committee of CSIC.

Abstract of lecture

The experience of co-designing two assistive robot prototypes to help people with physical and mental disabilities, respectively, will be described. The first one is a small robot arm, equipped with a camera, a force sensor and an interactive tablet, for feeding people in large healthcare centres, which has been developed by several engineers and a social scientist in our research group, together with the managing team, physicians, nurses, innovation technicians and sixty voluntary patients in the Sociosanitary Park Pere Virgili in Barcelona. The second prototype has been co-designed with a neurologist, a therapist and a social worker to provide cognitive training to the patients in a day-care facility of the ACE Alzheimer Centre in Barcelona. Among the lessons learned, the importance of interdisciplinarity, human-centric deployment, personalization, and technoethics training stand out. Materials to teach a course on ‘Ethics of Social Robotics and AI’ and to foster debate, by exploiting the engaging appeal of science fiction narrative, will be presented. While social robotics shares several ethics issues with AI, embodiment makes a huge difference in other aspects, some beneficial and some riskier.

Plenary dialogue

Professor Torras will deliver her lecture remotely and then engage in a live dialogue with two interlocutors before addressing questions from the audience. Moderator: Raul Hakli. 

Interlocutor 1: Alan Winfield, University of West England, UK

Alan Winfield is Professor of Robot Ethics and (formerly) Director of the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, Visiting Professor at the University of York, and Associate Fellow of the Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Cambridge. He co-founded the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and his research is focussed on the science, engineering and ethics of intelligent robots. Winfield is an advocate for robot and AI ethics; he sits on the executive of the IEEE Standards Association Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, and chairs Working Group P7001, drafting a new IEEE standard on Transparency of Autonomous Systems.

Interlocutor 2: Raja Chatila, Sorbonne University, France

Raja Chatila is Professor emeritus at Sorbonne Université. He is former Director of the Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics (ISIR) and of the Laboratory of Excellence “SMART” on human-machine interaction. He was director of LAAS-CNRS, Toulouse France, in 2007-2010. His research covers several aspects of Robotics in robot navigation and SLAM, motion planning and control, cognitive and control architectures, human-robot interaction, machine learning, and ethics. He  works on robotics projects in the areas of service, field, aerial and space robotics. He is author of over 170 international publications on these topics. Current and recent projects: HumanE AI Net the network of excellence of AI centers in Europe, AI4EU promoting AI in Europe,  AVETHICS on the ethics of automated vehicle decisions, Roboergosum on robot self-awareness and Spencer on human-robot interaction in populated environments. He was President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for the term 2014-2015. He is co-chair of the Responsible AI Working group in the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) and member of the French National Pilot Committee for Digital Ethics (CNPEN). He is chair of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. He was member of the High Level Expert Group in AI with the European Commission (HLEG-AI). Honors: IEEE Fellow, IEEE Pioneer Award in Robotics and Automation, Honorary Doctor of Örebro University (Sweden).