Robotic Therapy, Regulatory Implications and Technological Risks

Robotic Seal Petting Therapy, Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2005 | © Courtesy of Andrew Shieh/Flickr.
Robotic Seal Petting Therapy, Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2005 | © Courtesy of Andrew Shieh/Flickr.

On January 18, 2019, Eduard Fosch-Villaronga and Jordi Albo-Canals have published an article entitled ““I’ll take care of you,” said the robot: Reflecting upon the legal and ethical aspects of the use and development of social robots for therapy” in Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics.

A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.


In their study, Eduard Fosch-Villaronga and Jordi Albo-Canals have inquired into the implications of “the legal and ethical challenges of the growing inclusion of social robots in therapy [settings]” (77). As the background for this research serve “legal and regulatory initiatives aiming at governing the impacts of robot technology” (78). The adaptability of robots furthers their integration into therapeutic settings that need to “address the dominant core characteristics of the disorder to be effective, and be individualized to meet the needs of each participant” (78), which particularly applies to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) patients.

As these authors indicate, “[r]obotic technology offers […] multiple and different activities that have been found useful and engaging in TBI populations” (79). This analytic study has explored the application of a LEGO® robotics system and cloud services for therapy needs, in an effort to assess the impact of the “collaborative nature [of a robot-based neuropsychological rehabilitation treatment] on the development of social skills in children and adolescents with ASD” (79-80). This exploratory investigation also pays attention to the risks of robotic therapies, since “[r]obots differ from personal computers because they combine the processing of a vast amount of information with the capacity to do actual physical harm” (81). Yet in therapeutic contexts, robots are not only expected to be safe, but also may need to exhibit personality characteristics, so as “[t]o establish relationships and lasting attachment between humans and social robots, these latter require being more real and alive than mere machines” (82).

This is aided by the human tendency, “to project and attribute human-like features to simple objects” (83). Moreover, as Fosch-Villaronga and Albo-Canals stress, “[u]nlike ordinary toys or other tools used in therapies, social robots are capable of recording and processing every aspect of the therapy with a child, including emotions” (83). Thus, this article concludes that “[s]teps need to be taken to help speed the creation of guidelines that could frame the innovation happening in the therapeutic robotics field” (89), since “technology is both a filter and an agent in determining how individuals see the world” (89).

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Robotic Seal Petting Therapy, Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2005 | © Courtesy of Andrew Shieh/Flickr.


Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "Robotic Therapy, Regulatory Implications and Technological Risks," in Open Access Blog, 24/11/2019, https://oab.hypotheses.org/987.

Reference

Fosch-Villaronga, Eduard, and Jordi Albo-Canals. ““I’ll take care of you,” said the robot.” Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics 10.1 (2019): 77-93.

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