Universal Design of Robots

What is required to make a robot universally designed? One would need to consider the context and think about how people are to interact with it.

Although one can turn to standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, these standards may be insufficient for the robot’s interactions in the real world.

Caption: How should humans interact with robots? Photo: Pexels

Social robots

With uncertainty as to what guidelines to follow, there are also issues with evaluating the robot to find out if it is universally designed. It would be helpful if a roboticist and designers had a resource to consult for building a universally designed robot and have a method for evaluating if a robot is universally designed. 

The goal of the project is to find out how one can design and evaluate if social robots are universally designed. Social robots, containing both a physical manifestation and a digital component, differ from other kinds of ICT solutions such as web pages and mobile apps. For those solutions, it is sufficient to build universally designed software with the assumption that the computer or telephone will provide the necessary assistive technology to access the software. Some robots may be interacted with via a web page or mobile app, but social robots are designed to be interacted with via gestures, voice, or other modalities. This allows for more opportunities for creating technology that can be used by more people, but it also requires additional thought and planning to reach everyone. 

User groups

Our project will investigate existing universal design and accessibility guidelines to see how they can apply to robots that interact with people. We will identify gaps in the existing guidelines and find possible solutions for how these gaps can be addressed. We will also consult with different user groups to see if they have any information about how robots can be made to be more universally designed. Once we have gathered this information, we plan on creating a method to evaluate a robot for universal design. To prove that this method can be useful, we will run this evaluation on a variety of different robots to see how robust the method is and adjust to accommodate for other issues that may arise during the evaluations. 

Name: Universal Design of Robots (UD Robots)

Partners: University of Oslo, VID Specialized University

Period: 2022

Funding: The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir)