Relevant for Research Area

C - Applications





NEXUS Experiments: Dr. Philipp Kellmeyer, Sabrina Livanec

Associated PIs: Prof. Dr. Abhinav Valada, Prof. Dr. Joschka Bödecker, Prof. Dr. Tonio Ball


With EnSciTech we offer a transdisciplinary advanced training program for Master's students and PhD researchers in addition to their discipline-specific scientific education. Relying on the NEXUS approach of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and taking advantage of the NEXUS Lab in the IMBIT, we will provide a space for incubation, acceleration, and co-creation with the goal of enabling researchers in the early career phase to incubate technological innovations.

To ensure value alignment from the very early phases of development, we pursue a responsibility and ethics-by-design approach inspired by design thinking, in which teams jointly reflect on and consider the psychological and ethical conditions that need to be met for technologies to be adopted by end users and the potential societal impacts of technical solutions in an iterative and interactive way.

With EnSciTech Part 1, we are primarily targeting neuroscientists, computer scientists, machine learning scholars, and roboticists. We will set up a comprehensive experimental environment allowing to flexibly model different human-robot interactions close to real-life. The aim is to form young researchers, developers, designers, and a wide range of potential end users into one team in the lab.

Phase 1 is dedicated to reflection and team building, stimulated by creative and entertaining NEXUS formats. The focus here is on raising awareness for the different needs of the stakeholder groups involved, for ethical, legal and societal implications, the identification of significant topic areas and intensive personal encounters. In phase 2, user studies are conducted, online and onsite, and co-creative development work is done, where the following guiding questions could be addressed: What functions do users actually desire? How can these functions be implemented technically so that they will be accepted and adopted? Which role does the design of the hardware play in this process. How do hardware and software interlock in a meaningful and effective way? How can the technical implementation be responsibly and sensitively adapted to the needs of people with different demands and preconditions? Is it technically possible for robots (and how) to self-adapt to their human users? How can AI applications be designed to be resource-efficient and sustainable (in cooperation with the Green AI startup community in Freiburg)?

To go beyond existing project-related work, e.g. in the ReScaLe project, this participatory user research will focus on other areas of human-robot interaction, e.g. rehabilitation, for which we will extensively work with established methods from design research (e.g. design fictions for rapid prototyping) that are somewhat independent of robotics hardware and usage.

To get designers and especially users, particularly those with special needs or from hard-to-reach target groups, committed to the project, the accompanying public engagement measures are highly effective. NEXUS can draw on a wide range of tools and formats to facilitate encounters of scientific, non-scientific and lay stakeholders, enabling, accompanying and moderating (if necessary) as well as evaluating the co-creational process with novel methods combining qualitative and quantitative research traditions [1]. The engagement activities and reflection periods will turn the non-experts involved into informed partners and increase data quality of the user studies (pseudo-opinions will be avoided).