Interview with Robotics4eu
During the previous month, RI4EU had the chance to engage in a conversation with the Robotics4EU team. This team, consisting of seven organisations, is managing an EU-funded project with the goal of advancing societal acceptance of robotics through responsible robotics practices. Lucas de Bont, representing Civitta, the organisation coordinating the project, explained the concept of responsible robotics and highlighted the initiatives being developed in the project. These initiatives aim to assist the robotics industry in designing, developing, and deploying robotics in a more responsible manner.
Hi Lucas! You’re the frontman of Robotics4EU – a European project that is focused on making robotics MORE RESPONSIBLE. What does that mean exactly?
Being more responsible in robotics means ensuring that (AI) robots and automated systems are designed, developed, and deployed in a way that considers the broader societal and ethical implications by putting humans at the center. In Robotics4EU, we empower robot manufacturers, researchers, and policymakers in the fields of Agile Production, Agrifood, Healthcare, and Inspection and Maintenance to become more responsible in five categories: Data, Legal, Socioeconomic, Environment, and Human Experience.
It’s probably clear to all companies why legal requirements need to be followed and why to make the solutions easy to use – otherwise, it wouldn’t even get to the market. But why should a company care about being environmentally and socially considerate?
Robotic technology has the potential to positively impact our lives, both at work and at home. It can increase efficiency and safety while enhancing the quality of services. In case there is resistance to adopting robotics, it causes us to miss out on opportunities to improve productivity and the quality of life. Furthermore, robotics has the potential to act as the physical embodiment of AI capable of bridging the digital and physical world – leading to a new generation of autonomous devices. In a globally competitive environment, leadership in robotics technology will be the key differentiator, and it is up to all of us to ensure that this process develops responsibly.
Companies should care about making their robots socially acceptable (beyond existing legal requirements) because it affects their market success. Customers are more likely to embrace and use robots that align with their values and are seen as trustworthy. Ignoring these factors can lead to resistance, reduced adoption, and even ethical concerns down the road
So based on your 2-year research into how robotics could be more widely adopted in Europe, WHAT IS MISSING from the current ways of building robots and the automated solutions that are available TODAY?
The ways robots are currently manufactured, researched, and used in Europe with respect to their responsibility dimension are already relatively advanced – yet, there is always room for improvement when it comes to removing non-technological barriers. Especially due to the fast advancements made in robotics and AI over the course of the Robotics4EU project, the most important need is for ways in which responsible practices, policies, and research can be taken into account in earlier stages of (AI) robotics development. Additionally, the conversation between policymakers and robotics producers needs to be improved, and policymakers need to be made aware of the specific needs of the robotics community.
What is the Responsible Robotics COMPASS, and how does it work? Who is it made by and made for?
With the Robotics4EU project, we are developing a Responsible Robotics Compass, which essentially is a self-assessment tool for robotics manufacturers to track progress made towards responsible practices in the five categories (Data, Legal, Socioeconomic, Environment, and Human Experience). The tool measures the current risk levels of the robotics application as well as the mitigation level based on steps that have already been taken to provide the manufacturer with a final score. Based on the answers, the tool can provide accurate recommendations together with helpful resources to implement the change. What makes the tool so unique is that it uses an exhaustive checkbox approach that is easily scalable with user input, new industry best practices, research, and policy developments. This ensures the tool will remain relevant and is as close to real-world developments as possible and helps researchers as well as policymakers to have a direct impact.
All the checklists that currently exist in the tool have been collected through one-on-one interviews with experts and industry leaders as well as through all other project activities such as co-creation workshops and capacity-building workshops. There is still a lot to do, so with humility, we INVITE invaluable insights and inputs from the entire robotics industry to truly build the tool for and by the robotics industry in Europe. Here is the online tool you can test and provide your feedback.
You’ve also been collecting inputs on how the European Commission and regulative authorities could support the uptake of responsible robotics. What can you say about that?
In our quest to advocate for responsible robotics, we aim to propose actionable steps for EU-level and national policymakers to steer the development of the robotics field in a responsible direction. We aim to translate the citizens’ expectations, experts’ insights and industry’s needs into “calls” for action:
- Engage a wide array of actors in the formulation of robotics policies and the development of products
- Support the industry in steering the development of responsible robotics
- Ensure adherence to the responsible robotics principles in safety, data, ethics and sustainability
- Advance solutions to socioeconomic challenges
We are eager to invite robotics community into the conversation and hear the ideas on what should the priorities in forming policies that advance responsible robotics.
Share your insights and provide the feedback on the Robotics4EU recommendations in the survey.
Who else is working towards this goal with YOUR TEAM? Are you expecting any more parties to join in on the mission? :
This is absolutely a collaborative effort and the Robotics4EU project is working closely with various organizations, academic institutions, and industry experts who share our commitment to responsible robotics. We are continually seeking to expand our network of partners and stakeholders who are dedicated to this mission. We welcome anyone who wants to contribute to the responsible adoption of robotics to join our efforts.
A few words on our team:
- DBT – The mission of The Danish Board of Technology is to ensure that society’s development is shaped by informed and forward-looking cooperation between citizens, experts, stakeholders, and decision-makers. To this end, the Foundation performs and facilitates technology assessment and foresight, public engagement, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), and new forms of governance.
- NTNU – NTNU is the largest university in Norway, with three campuses in Trondheim, Ålesund, and Grøjvik with specializations in the natural sciences and technology. Robotics4EU is based at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture’s Digitalization and Robotization of Society (DigiKULT) research group and the Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science’s Immersive Technology and Social Robotics (IMRO) Lab.
- LNE – The Laboratoire national de métrologie et d’essais (LNE) is a public body attached to the French Ministry of Industry. It is the central and federating body for testing, evaluation and metrology work aimed at standardizing, structuring and supporting the supply of new products, seeking both to protect and meet the needs of consumers and to rationalize, develop and promote the industry.
- LOBA – Customer Experience Design: is the number one business and marketing agency in Portugal dedicated to customer experience. For the last three years in a row (2018, 2019 and 2020) it was elected Best Digital Portuguese Agency and Best Digital Lusophone Agency by Prémios Lusófonos da Criatvidade.
- AFL – Digital Innovation Hub ‘AgriFood Lithuania’ is a non-profit organization established since 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania. As the only DIH in Lithuania focused exclusively on agriculture and food, the DIH is extensively working with and promoting the application of breakthrough technologies in agri-food, with experience in key technological areas of Artificial Intelligence, remote sensing, Internet of Things, Robotics, distributed IT systems, and other digital-based technologies.
- Robotex – Robotex is Estonian-based organization whose aim is to organize Robotex International – an annual Robotics festival that brings together thousands of engineers, executives, students and families to be inspired by technology industry leaders, examine new start-ups, build robots for various challenges and learn about the latest technology innovations
- CIVITTA (Coordinator) – Started as an alliance of advisory firms in the Baltic States, and headquartered in Estonia, CIVITTA is now the leading management consultancy from Central Eastern Europe. Our consultants support companies interested in and operating in over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, resulting in more than 10 000 completed projects. CIVITTA challenges the traditional management consulting industry, providing high-quality fact-based and analytically rigorous consulting services to all clients at a reasonable price.