Young people share views in Parliament on robotics

Issue date: 04 March 2010

Walking with Robots A cohort of young people from across the UK will visit the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday 9 March 2010 to talk about the future of robotics at a specially convened Parliamentary Seminar.

'Robotic Visions, Young People's Views on the Future of Robotics Technology' will be held in the Jubilee Room, Westminster Hall, Houses of Parliament on 9 March 14.00 – 16.00.

The event celebrates a ground breaking series of public engagement activities entitled 'Robotic Visions'. The project provides a unique opportunity for key stakeholders to understand public concerns about robotics research, as well as enabling young people to have their voices heard. The programme so far has involved a series of four 'Vision Conferences' throughout the UK, each bringing together 20-30 young people and robotics researchers to jointly explore current and future robotics research. Conferences have been held in Bristol, Newcastle, Glasgow and Oxford, with another planned in Aberystwyth in summer 2010.

'Robotic Visions' is led by award winning Science Communicator, Dr Karen Bultitude, and Dr Claire Rocks from 'Walking with Robots', a programme which over three years has engaged audiences with the potential of robotics research whilst encouraging them to consider the future impact of robots in society. Roboticists and science centres from throughout the UK contributed specialised expertise, ensuring that the young people were able to consider cutting edge developments during their deliberations.

One of the students attending a previous conference explained their motivations for getting involved: “I have never really thought about robotics before the conference which is why I wanted to go, but it did change the way I feel about robots, about what they can do”.

Another student added: “I learned about things that I had not even considered before… I thought about the ethics and stuff like that and it has made me even more interested in it”.

For the Parliamentary event, student representatives from each of the conferences will
present their region's interests, concerns and conclusions regarding the future use of robotics technology. Representatives from the research and policy communities will also provide short synopses describing the impact of the project on their work.

Speakers include: Dr Lesley Paterson (The Royal Academy of Engineering) who will speak on: 'Involving Young People in Debate and Dialogue Events'; Professor Alan Winfield, (EPSRC Senior Media Fellow and Hewlett-Packard Professor of Electronic Engineering at UWE Bristol) on: 'Why Roboticists and Funders Need to Understand the Concerns and Aspirations of our Children's Generation'; and Professor Peter McOwan, (Queen Mary University of London) on 'Motivations for Dialogue; A Personal View'.

To date the students have identified three key areas where they foresee robotics research heading: medicine, the military and in the home. Cross-cutting themes have also emerged from the conferences relating to issues around human replacement; trust, reliability and safety; and affordability. The young people also have clear messages to send out, including: “There has to be accountability and hierarchy – no one person with too much control. There need to be lots of checks in the system, monitoring and a licensing system. There needs to be a focus on long-term goals – this goes beyond party politics.

“We want you to consider the problem of who is responsible if a robot goes wrong and have sensible laws in place.

“We feel it is important that the public gets educated about robots, in order to prevent misunderstandings and aid their acceptance”.

Speaking about the event Professor Alan Winfield said, “Young people's views are especially important when we consider future robotics technology: it's their lives that will be most affected. The Vision conferences enabled young people to become involved in this debate; to find out first hand from researchers about what robots can and can't do, and to express their views on how intelligent robots should or should not be used in the future. This event enables the views of young people to be heard at the highest level, and to widen the debate that needs to take place about this technology.”

Robotic Visions is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and was run in partnership with universities and science centres throughout the UK. For further information visit:


Editors notes:

To attend this event please e-mail or telephone Nadine Walters on 0207 219 8377.

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