Ms. Mara, you're a robot psychologist. Who are your patients?
Nobody. Contrary to the general idea shared by many people, robots have no consciousness and no psyche – and there is not a single prototype worldwide to indicate that anything of the kind could be possible in the foreseeable future. My scientific work centers on how humans experience robots and artificial intelligence, and how they need to be shaped so that we accept them. In the future, machines will participate in our lives more and more, whether it's Alexa in the living room or the self-driving automobile. My job is to focus on human-centered robotics, i.e. to focus on human needs in the midst of the current technical transformation and to find out how we can create a meaningful community.
How do you go about that?
For example, I'm particularly looking forward to CoBot Studio, a new research project that's about to start. At the moment, so-called collaborative robots are becoming increasingly important. These are machines that work together with people in industry, for example. They help with assembly, lift heavy things or check packaging together with people.
If robots are too human-like they become very scary for people..
The CoBot Studio will be a novel mixed reality simulation room in which we will combine virtual work environments with real collaborative robots. Test persons will playfully work with the robots in a team. We want to learn how these machines have to behave so that people can feel comfortable working with them. We arrive at our results by analyzing in-situ questionnaires, but also by evaluating camera and sensor data.