Moral Machines, Robot

Robots of Good Character: Equipping robots with moral competence

In his Inaugural Professorial Lecture on the 6th June Nigel Crook explored the possibility of building robots that have good moral character. Prof Crook argued that as robots become increasingly autonomous, humanlike and embedded in society, there will be an expectation and a need for them to be equipped with some degree of moral competence (‘functional morality‘). He also argued that robots should never be regarded as possessing the  full moral agency that is commonly attributed to humans.

Prof Crook also includes in his inaugural lecture a summary of his personal and academic journey and his outlines his motivations for embarking on research into so called autonomous moral machines, bringing together concepts from philosophy of ethics, theology and cognitive science.

The video of the lecture can be found here.


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Humanoid Robot, Stories, Travel

Humanoid Robots at Osaka

Visit to Robotics Research Labs at Osaka


Nigel Crook, James Balkwill, and Matthias Rolf visited Osaka University, Japan, in order to establish collaborations in the area of robotics. The team visited the Labs of Prof. Asada (co-founder of the RoboCup soccer), Prof. Hosoda, and Prof. Ishiguro (who famously built an android version of himself, see picture). Topics of discussion included human-robot interactions, robot ethics, and actuator design.

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Humanoid Robot, Stories

Robot body pose mirroring

Fig 1. Experimental room setup

Have you ever caught yourself copying or mirroring the body pose of someone you are in conversation with or noticed that others are copying your body pose? 

What’s that all about? It is well known that this body-pose mirroring is a natural and often subconscious social behaviour that can build rapport, increase empathy and facilitate social interaction. So, if we wanted to build rapport, increase empathy and facilitate social interaction between a robot and a person, then body pose mirroring might be worth investigating.

There have been a number of recent studies that have evaluated the influence of a robot’s non-verbal behaviour on the way humans perceive and interact with them. We recently completed one small study which investigated the effect that upper body mimicry has on how people perceive robots. We did by inviting people to a face-to-face interaction with a Nao robot (Fig 1) and then asking them to complete a questionnaire (GODSPEED). We found that when the robot was mirroring the participants’ upper body pose, the participants rated the robot’s humanness more highly and seemed to experience greater empathy with the robot. 

More details of this study can be found here.

Fuente, L.A., Ierardi, H., Pilling, M. and Crook, N.T., 2015, October. Influence of upper body pose mirroring in human-robot interaction. In International Conference on Social Robotics (pp. 214-223). Springer, Cham.

Fig 2 Some robot body poses


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