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Social robotics—the production of robots with “social skills” or even “social intelligence”—is driving a technological revolution of possibly unprecedented disruptive potential, both at the socio-economic and the socio-cultural level.  Since we cannot anticipate the long-term effects of the wide-spread use of social robots, we need to envisage new forms of research organisation that will enable us to regulate social robotics applications from the beginning and not, as currently, after the fact. “Integrative Social Robotics” (ISR) is a new strategy for developing  social robotics applications—it tighly integrates robotics research with a wide scope of research disciplines that investigate human social interactions, including empirical, conceptual, and value-theoretic research in the Humanities.

On the ISR approach, socio-cultural conceptions of values and (personal and social) well-being guide the development of social robotics applications from idea to implementation.  This follows the model of ‘user-driven design’ writ large—what steers the design and developments process are the normative preferences of a cultural community, whose conceptions of well-being are in turn informed by the empirical investigation of human-robot interactions. The ISR approach is a method for implementing scientific social responsibility in the domain of robotics.  But it also requires that the humanities give up on an exclusively reflective stance and cast themselves in a new, pro-active role.

Supported by a Semper Ardens Grant of the Carlsberg Foundation, an international project group of 25 researchers from 11 disciplines will work out the methodological foundations of ISR and implement it for the first time.  The project  team will design and test several innovative social robotics applications that promote socio-cultural values and norms of personal well-being, such as fairness, authenticity, autonomy, and creative self-realization.

The INSOR project is coordinated by the Research Unit for Robophilosophy (R.U.R) at Aarhus University.

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