Our exhibition Can Robots Care? launched on 4th November at the Thackray Museum of Medicine. The evening included a chance to get a first look at the exhibition and to meet the robots Paro, MiRO, Nao and Pepper.
The CEO of the Thackray Museum Nat Edwards and our PI Dr Amelia DeFalco introduced the project and warmly welcomed visitors to the show. Professor Tony Prescott, Director of Sheffield Robotics, then delivered a brilliant talk on the future of care robots.
Among other topics, Tony discussed recent advances in prosthetics and animal-assisted therapy. In response to a question about whether robots might one day become conscious, he pointed out that definitions of consciousness are culturally and historically specific, quipping “consciousness is overrated!”. If consciousness means an understanding of one’s experience in, and in relation to, a world, then robots might one day have the capacity to attain this. However, sci-fi fans can rest assured that fears about the imminent arrival of the Terminator are likely to be unfounded! Though developments in robotics raise important ethical issues, many of these relate to how robots are programmed and used by humans.
Similarly, while care robots can provide assistance and care to a variety of users, they do not currently have the capacity for empathy that we might associate with ‘caring’ in an emotional sense. The question, ‘Can robots care?’ therefore has multiple possible answers. Visitors can consider this question and the other issues the development of care robots raises while viewing exhibition, which offers room for interaction and feedback. The exhibition’s run has been extended until October 2022. And, alongside regular opportunities for visitors to interact with the robots, there will be plenty of workshops and events for visitors of all ages. We are looking forward to seeing you there!