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International Research Conference Robophilosophy 2016 / TRANSOR 2016:
Aarhus, Denmark, October 17-21, 2016

What Social Robots Can and Should Do             

The "robotic moment" (Turkle 2011) is no longer on the horizon—we are living it now.  Given the rapid development in social robotics, we are now at that potential turning point in human cultural history during which we need to react to concrete visions, by the robotics research industry, of placing artificial ‘social’ agents ubiquitously into the public and private spaces of human social interactions. How shall we respond? And who is to respond? If we are changing the 'human condition' at its foundations, can humanity rise to the occasion?

This conference is motivated by two premises First, the challenge of social robotics can only be met by a joint research effort across disciplines.  Since the questions forced upon us by social robotics reach deeply into the fabric of our cultural self-comprehension, we need close collaborations among researchers in robotics, anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, education science, linguistics, interaction studies, and philosophy.  Only by way of research collaborations can we work out concrete and constructive responses that can guide developers and producers of this new technology, as well as those who will be exposed to it. 

Second, empirical and normative research must go hand in hand, from the very beginning of design.  Researchers need to be proactive—we need to explore what robots can and should do, continuously, in a tight feedback loop between (1) engineering, (2) empirical (quantitative but especially also qualitative) research on human-robot interactions, and (3) research on our conceptual, practical, cultural, and ethical norms. Roboethics must not be an afterthought on readymade applications.

The aim of this conference is thus to highlight and advance a growing realization in the HRI community that the issues of social robotics require that we address factual and normative questions at the same time.  The event shall present research in "integrated social robotics"—a collaborative interdisciplinary engagement towards responsible creations of new forms of sociality in human-robot interactions that are tightly linked to our normative discussion about human well-being and human values.

The conference will have the format of a large international research conference with 12 plenaries and about 100 talks in parallel sessions and workshops, following the model of Robophilosophy 2014.

Plenaries (already confirmed):

  • Christopher Bartneck, Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HITLabNZ), University of Canterbury, NZ
  • Selmer Bringsjord, Director of Rensselaer AI & Reasoning (RAIR) Lab, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA
  • Mark Coeckelbergh, Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, AT
  • David Gunkel, Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University, USA
  • Wendy Ju, Director for Interaction Design Research, Stanford University, USA
  • Benjamin Kuipers, Intelligent Robots Lab, University of Michigan, USA
  • Domenico Parisi, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, CNR, IT
  • Simon Penny, Department of Art, University of California at Irvine, USA
  • Kathleen Richardson, Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University, GB
  • Jennifer Robertson, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, USA
  • Amanda Sharkey, Department of Computer Science, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • Noel Sharkey, Department of Computer Science, The University of Sheffield, UK
  • John Sullins, Department of Philosophy, Sonoma State University, USA

Workshops (confirmed):

  1. Human Robot Joint Action, Coordinator: Aurélie Clodic

  2. Phronesis for Machine Ethics? Can robots perform ethical judgements?, Coordinator: Charles Ess
  3. Responsible Robotics, Coordinator: Aimee Wynsberghe
  4. Artificial Empathy, Coordinator: Luisa Damiano
  5. Children Robot Interaction. Coordinator: Center for Children’s Speculative Design
  6. Robots in the Wild. Coordinator: Cathrine Hasse

The conference is organized by TRANSOR, and interdisciplinary international research network for Transdisciplinary Studies in Social Robotics.

Conference publications Robophilosophy 2014

Sociable Robots and the Future of Social Relations
Proceedings of Robo-Philosophy 2014 (IOS Press)

The conference proceedings of Robo-Philosophy 2014 Conference - click here.

In preparation: 

Sociality and Normativity for Robots
Philosophical Investigations
ed. by R. Hakli and J. Seibt, Springer

Philosophy of, for, and by Social Robotics
ed. by J. Seibt, R. Hakli, and M. Nørskov, MIT Press



Social Robots
Boundaries, Potential, Challenges (Ashgate)

This edited volume contributes to the field of social robotics by exploring its boundaries, potential, and Challenges from a philosophically informed standpoint. - click here.

Conference details


October 17-21, 2016


Aarhus University
Building 1441


Normal registration (March 16 - September 30)


For all questions please contact the conference organizers at:

Please indicate in the header of your message the issue concerned: practical aspects (e.g., hotel reservations, travel, visa), registration, or the conference program.


The conference is an initiative of  TRANSOR, and interdisciplinary international research network for Transdisciplinary Studies in Social Robotics.

Main organizers: 

Johanna Seibt, Marco Nørskov.

Research group PENSOR (Philosophical and Transdisciplinary Enquiries in Social Robotics)


Cathrine Hasse
Kerstin Fischer,

Press contact: Marco Nørskov.

The conference is supported by a grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research and

the Velux Foundation.

Velux fonden

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Revised 2016.05.18