International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)


User-centred interaction design for context-sensitive and acceptable robots

As of today, assistance and service robots already possess a wide range of basic interactive skills that provide useful assistive applications for daily life. Examples include handling objects,following and guiding persons, etc. Technical approaches are also available for understanding commands as well as recognizing and interpreting relevant contexts.

However, technical functionality alone is not sufficient to provide an effective interaction between humans and robots (HRI) or to establish a partnership in which common goals can be achieved together. In order to make human-robot systems attractive for private, human-centered applications, it is necessary to take a closer look at how the user perceives the interaction. Fostering positive user experiences (UX), however, requires more systematic approaches to interaction design.

While extensive design knowledge and best practice approaches are available for graphical user interfaces, there is still a considerable research gap with regard to human-robot interaction (MRI). On the one hand, users will benefit from an intuitive interaction design and positive interaction experiences. In this regard, special requirements result from the user groups that can benefit most from robotic assistance systems, such as the elderly or people with cognitive and/or motor impairments. On the other hand, developers and suppliers of human-robot systems can profit from empirically validated interaction strategies. Witout having to conduct their own specific research or develop specific HRI design expertise. they can use such pre-developed interavtion patterns to offer user-friendly, intuitive and trustworthy products and services.

For this reason, the NIKA project focusses on the development of generic interaction patterns for HRI, which can be used across different robotic platforms. These patterns are developed with the goal in mind to make the interaction between humans and robots a joyful, positive social experience. A library of interaction patterns will be designed, implemented and tested, from which the appropriate pattern for the respective situation will be selected according to the user's needs profile, support needs and context.

The project focuses primarily on the support needs of older people. Particularly with respect to demographic change, user-oriented and context-sensitive assistance robots have great potential for this target group to foster an active, self-determined lifestyle in their own home environment.

Subproject at the IZEW

NIKA aims to open up the potential of a user-oriented HRI to as large a circle of users as possible and to improve the acceptability of assistance robots in the home environment. With the goal of high social and economic acceptability, measures are planned throughout the project to ensure appropriate consideration of user requirements and ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI). An essential means for this are a) empirical studies with potential users in all project phases, b) scientific analyses on ethical, legal and social issues and c) the use of methods for integrating non-technical aspects into the development part. While iteractive optimization of technical functionality and the Design-for-all approach lies primarily with the Frauenhofer IAO, the IZEW focuses on value conflicts between autonomy, controllability, data protection, misuse, liability, responsibility and research ethics.

Project Partners

Wohlfahrtwerk Baden-Württemberg, service provider for the elderly (coordinator and application Partner)

Fraunhofer IAO, Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization (research and transfer partner)

University of Stuttgart IAT, Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management (development partner)

C&S Computer and Software GmbH (development partner)

Funding Program

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)R research program on Human-Technology-Interaction: "Bringing technology to the people"

Grant number: 16SV7944