RO-MAN 2021: HRI, Social Robotics, and Roboethics

RO-MAN 2021 (IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication) is coming soon, from 8 to 12 August 2021, and we are taking part in the conference once again, this year as silver sponsors. RO-MAN 2021 (this year taking place virtually) is a key event in the community of Robot & Human technologies, which we at PAL Robotics are committed to contributing to. 

RO-MAN this year celebrates its 30th anniversary. This annual academic conference was launched in 1992 in Tokyo, Japan and is sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. RO-MAN 2021 is being organised by the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo, Canada. You can also read about our participation to RO-MAN 2020.

The theme of the RO-MAN 2021 Virtual Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication is ‘Trustworthiness and Cooperation’ with topics of interest including but not limited to areas such as: Assistive Robotics, Applications of Social Robots, Creating Human-Robot Relationships, Degrees of Autonomy and Teleoperation, Embodiment, Empathy and Intersubjectivity, Ethical Issues in Human-robot Interaction Research, Machine Learning and Adaptation, and Robot Companions and Social Robots.

Paper: Social robotic application to support active and healthy ageing

To contribute to this year’s discussion, PAL Robotics submitted a paper on “Social robotic application to support active and healthy ageing” that reviews the user requirements and challenges that are relevant to older adults with reduced capabilities living in their homes, and how socially assistive robots (SAR) can be used to help them, with a special focus on our social robot ARI. The paper, that has been accepted and will be shown during the conference, and has been written by Sara Cooper, Alessandro Di Fava, Francesco Ferro and Luca Marchionni from PAL Robotics, Oscar Villacañas from Clínica Humana, Tatiana Silva and Victor Fernandez-Carbajales with Tree Technology and Luis Unzueta and Manex Serras with VICOMTECH. 

The paper describes how PAL Robotics’ social robot ARI is being used to promote healthy living of older adults as part of the European SHAPES project, and the different technological solutions that have been integrated. In the user-case, robot ARI will be used to deliver reminders, provide entertainment and monitor the status of older adults in private homes and residential homes. We have recently started pilots for this project in Mallorca, Spain, you can find out more about this in our recent SHAPES blog.

The collaborative robot ARI outside in a garden

Workshop: Social assistant robots with enhanced cognitive, learning and social abilities

At RO-MAN 2021, which focuses on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, we will also be participating, for the second year in a row, as speakers in the BAILAR workshop, with our Robotics Software Engineer, Sara Cooper, presenting a workshop paper also related to the SHAPES project mentioned above, on behalf of PAL Robotics. This popular workshop includes discussion on a range of topics from social and assistive robotics to machine learning. The idea is to gather robotics and computer scientists to talk about approaches and progress in endowing social assistant robots with enhanced cognitive, learning and social abilities. 

Roboethics Competition: testing ethical behaviour in simulated household scenarios

RO-MAN 2021 also includes the Roboethics robotics competition, where participants will have the chance to work with PAL Robotics’ TIAGo mobile manipulator humanoid robot. As robots become more affordable and feasible technically, designing robots that act in accordance with social norms becomes increasingly pronounced. The Roboethics Competition will be taking place virtually, and TIAGo robot‘s ethical behaviour will be tested in a variety of simulated household scenarios. 

In partnership with RoboHub at the University of Waterloo, the competition organizers have designed a virtual environment where participating teams will develop a robot that fetches objects in a home. TIAGo robot will be programmed using ROS and simulated in Gazebo. Participating teams are expected to submit technical solutions (e.g. object recognition, picking up objects, navigation) however the functional technical challenges will be drastically simplified such that the ethics considerations present in the design of robot behaviours remain the focus of this competition. The Technical Design & Paper Submission deadline for the competition is on 1 August. Find out how to apply here

TIAGo as a social robot with an elderly man

Workshop: Redoubling trust in robots with project SPRING

Our project partners in the SPRING project (Heriot Watt University) are co-hosting the REDOUBLE workshop in which they aim to bring together researchers from the fields of Human-Robot Interaction, Trust in AI, XAI, Healthcare, Ethics, Social Sciences, etc. to discuss topics related to the use of robots as care providers or support for care staff, the issues they face to gain the required trust to fulfil their role, and the societal issues surrounding this movement. In recent years, there has been a push towards bringing robots into healthcare as part of patient-facing roles such as in the STRANDS and recent SPRING large-scale EU projects. This workshop is hosted by Heriot Watt University, Swansea University, Eastern University of Applied Sciences, and The University of Manchester. Find out more about the workshop here.

PAL Robotics’ ARI and TIAGo robots for HRI

In terms of Robot and Human Interactive Communication, for us at PAL Robotics, our social humanoid robot ARI takes part in a number of projects in this field. In addition to the SHAPES project, robot ARI participates in project SPRING. The SPRING EU-funded project with multiple partners is working on the adaptation of Socially Assistive Robots, with the ability to perform multi-person interactions and have an open and extensive dialogue. During this project, PAL Robotics is designing and manufacturing seven adapted robots, as well as integrating the software developed by project partners. The goal is for the robot to be able to participate in different user-cases in a hospital environment, such as welcoming newcomers to the waiting room, helping with check-in/out forms, providing information about the consultation agenda, acting as a guide to appointments, and also offering entertainment. 

Our humanoid social robot ARI is a high-performance robot with human-like features and was designed for a wide range of multimodal expressive behaviours and gestures, focused on social interaction. ARI is suitable for human-robot interaction, perception, cognition and navigation.

Our humanoid robot TIAGo is a research platform (which stands for Take It And Go) that is ready to adapt to meet all of your research needs – not the other way around. The versatile TIAGo robot combines navigation, perception, manipulation & Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) skills out of the box. The robot’s perception abilities include people tracking, facial recognition and emotion recognition. TIAGo also has autonomous navigation and localization, mapping and obstacle avoidance that are accessed through ROS.

At PAL Robotics we are looking forward to joining the virtual RO-MAN virtual conference this year from 8-12 August. Don’t miss our workshop and paper presentation – and we hope to e-meet you there! Find the full details of the RO-MAN event and the link to register here. To find out more about us, visit PAL Robotics’ blog, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us.