“I’ll be back… to read them a story” – Cranfield University researching ‘nanny’ robots

Terminator 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger high fives Edward Furlong
Thankfully, there's no suggestion the nanny robots will be like Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 in the Terminator films.

Cranfield University are asking people if they’d be happy to leave their children to be looked after by a robot, as well as being used in a number of other situations that many may feel are ‘human only’ roles.

It’s expected that 39.5 million robots will be in our homes by 2021, thankfully no one expects them to be anything like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in Terminator 2 (pictured).

Dr Sarah Fletcher, Head of Cranfield University’s Industrial Psychology and Human Factors research group, who are managing the survey, said: “With the increasing ways in which robots and robotic systems are impacting on our everyday lives, it is important that we have ethical standards that are informed by public opinion.

“While some of the scenarios in the survey may seem futuristic and far-fetched, they are potentially just around the corner as we have already seen a rapid rise in robot technology in domestic settings.

“Who would have thought 10 years ago that a robot could be vacuuming your floor or mowing your lawn?”

The survey will explore how comfortable people would be with robots taking over various roles and responsibilities in various situations, such as:

  • Robots used for childcare in the home
  • Surgical robots in a hospital
  • Domestic servant robots in a care home
  • Workplace assistant robots in a factory
  • Robots in a war / conflict zone
  • Companion robots

This will enable designers, developers and manufacturers to understand people’s feeling about accepting robots into their everyday lives.

So far, the survey has revealed that people remain uncomfortable about certain roles being taken over by domestic robots could take over. Over 60% believe there should be a limit to what robots should be allowed to do.

M. Osman Tokhi, Professor at London South Bank University and Chair of the Ethics of Robots and Autonomous Systems sub-committee, said: “The robotics technology is advancing at a fast pace and as robots will continue to share the same environment with us in various sectors of life, new challenges and ethical issues are expected to emerge.

“We continue to address these issues and challenges within the robot standardisation work to inform the designers, developers, and users of robots, and the results of the survey will form valuable input to our work.”

The research will help the Ethics of Robots and Autonomous Systems Sub-Committee review the world’s first standard for the ethical design and application of robots and robotic systems at BSI.

To take part in the survey, head to: cranfielduniversity.eu