Tackling the Challenges of Facial Masking in Parkinson’s Disease
Rehabilitation through Co-Robot Mediator
Many aspects of co-robots are currently investigated, from algorithms for
scene and activity understanding, to planning for human-robot teaming, and
natural language interactions between humans and robots. However, there is
surprisingly little work on mechanisms that will allow co-robots to behave
in a manner that is ethical and sensitive to the moral context and social
norms. This is particularly worrisome as simple robots are already entering
society without any notion of ethically acceptable behavior and this
situation will only be exacerbated in the future if various kinds of social
and assistive robots will cause humans to form unidirectional emotional
bonds with robots without those robots being sensitive to human emotions and
feelings. In this NSF-funded collaborative NRI project, we will tackle a
hitherto completely overlooked ethical aspect of human-robot interaction: maintenance
of human dignity and the stigmatization of human patients.
The overarching scientific goal of this project is two-fold: (1) to develop
a robotic architecture endowed with moral emotional control mechanisms,
abstract moral reasoning, and a theory of mind that allow co-robots to be
sensitive to human affective and ethical demands, and (2) to develop a
specific instance of the architecture for a co-robot mediator between people
with “facial masking” due to Parkinson’s disease (PD) that reduces their
ability to signal emotion, pain, personality and intentions to their family
caregivers, and health care providers who often misinterpret the lack of
emotional expressions as disinterest and an inability to adhere to treatment
regimen, resulting in stigmatization. Specific questions we will
(1) How can an expanded set of moral emotions, particularly empathy, be
modelled and exhibited by co-robots to provide quantitatively better care of
patients, in particular, early patients with PD.
(2) How can we develop a theory of mind of both caregiver and patient
(including their goals and emotional states) that can be used by a “co-robot
mediator” to improve the quality of care for patients while enhancing the
dignity of both patient and caregiver?
To tackle these problems, the project brings together two roboticists, Prof.
Matthias Scheutz (Tufts) and Prof. Ron Arkin (Georgia Tech) with extensive
prior experience in robot ethics and modeling emotions as well as
implementing them in integrated autonomous robotic systems. The
robotics expertise is combined with that of an expert in early PD
rehabilitation and daily social life, Prof. Linda Tickle-Degnen (Tufts).