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Reflections on the Development and the Design of Medical and Care Robots

on 5. März 2015

Oliver Bendel ist Professor und Leiter des Kompetenzschwerpunkts Digital Innovation & Learning (DIL) an der Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW).


There is a fundamental transformation in the field of health care: operation robots, therapy robots, care robots and sex robots, which can be characterized as medical and care robots (MCR), become more and more indispensable. Surgical robots are similar to industrial robots. Therapy, care and sex robots, however, often have a body and a locomotor system, and frequently resemble animals or human beings. Consequently, some of them can not only perform actions, but have a certain appearance, they can understand the human language and even write or talk, respectively utter sounds. Accordingly, the morality of these machines consists in their actions, in their appearance (including gestures and facial expression), and in their (natural) language skills. This contribution is committed to the findings of machine ethics and raises some thoughts for the development and design of moral MCR, with a focus on actions and appearance, as well as on the (natural) language skills. Using the literature and own research and considerations, appropriate meta-rules are being established, and central problem areas are identified without making concrete technical and design specifications. The problem descriptions allow robotics experts, computer scientists and designers to take into account social and moral aspects and to improve the MCR from an ethical perspective.

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