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Human-Robot Interaction in Social Robotics

The aim of the project, which is subsidised by the European Regional Development Fund, is to set up an interdisciplinary test and experimental environment for social robots.

navel facial expressions
© navel Social Robot zur Erforschung neuer Methoden in der sozialen Mensch-Roboter-Interaktion
Research project
Digital Transformation – Urban Futures
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

The University of Applied Sciences Potsdam is currently establishing an interdisciplinary test and experimental environment for social robots. The aim is to investigate technological, design, methodological and ethical issues in the development of AI-based robotic systems that work together with people in everyday contexts and living environments from different perspectives and for specific fields of application. The robot systems (including navel, Furhat and Misty II) each include extensive SDKs (development platforms) and enable flexible prototyping and testing of new application scenarios for social robots.

With the Social Robotic Lab, the university wants to open up the innovation field of "Artificial Intelligence for Social Robot Interactions" for Brandenburg's universities and interested cooperation partners from research and transfer in the region and make it tangible in real laboratories. The lab is being set up at a time when the spectacular breakthrough of AI-based chatbots and language models has taken contextualised communication between humans and machines to a new level. As artificial intelligence advances, more and more AI-enabled robots are being used for human-robot interaction to perform a variety of different tasks. Together with the rapidly advancing development of sensors for increasingly detailed speech, gesture and emotion recognition, powerful 3D lidar sensors for high-resolution environmental perception and miniaturised actuators as the basis for fine motor movement patterns of the robots, new application scenarios for social human-robot interactions are emerging in conjunction with AI-based, so-called conversational AI chatbots.

The challenge is that social interactions are complex processes in which a large number of psychological, sociological and other factors interact with each other. With its interdisciplinary research profile at the interface of social and educational sciences, interface and product design as well as media and information sciences, the FH Potsdam aims to contribute to the question of how interactions between humans and robots in social situations can be better designed and, furthermore, how robots can learn to cooperate with humans in a socially and ethically appropriate, fair and non-discriminatory manner in the future. Ultimately, it is about answering the question of whether areas such as education, care, health and entertainment really benefit from machines that use sensors and artificial intelligence to establish a focussed interaction with humans. When social robots become our pets, carers or learning companions, we need to determine the technological, social and ethical possibilities and limits of their use. Under what conditions can robots become companions and what ethical problems could arise in such a human-robot relationship?

We view social robots as socio-technical systems (STS) whose design and use can only succeed if the mutual influence of social systems (people, occupational and age groups, etc.) and technical systems (e.g. robots) and their relationship to each other are the holistic focus of research and development work.

Logo mit dem Text: kofinanziert von der Europäischen Union

Project management

Prof. Dr. Frank Heidmann
Research Professor for Design of Software Interfaces
Programme Director for Design (M. A.)