There are currently two parallel revolutions taking place in postindustrial societies such as Finland: 1) the enormous growth of demand in welfare and health services and 2) the emergence of a new generation of cognitive robots. Service robots are believed to hold great potential for increasing the productivity of health care and welfare service provision, improving the quality of services and through the emergence of new business models. The theme is, however, challenging due to complex ethical, legal and social issues. The ROSE Project – Robots and the Future of Welfare Services – conducts research on how the advance of service robot technologies enables the creation of innovative new products and services and the renewal of welfare services for the aging population.
The ROSE Project studies the evolution of services on the level of the individual, institutions and the society, and considers the needs of the users, ethical standpoints, maturity of technology as well as the service system as a whole. Service robotics is a theme that needs to be approached from multiple viewpoints, from individuals to the system as a whole, so that reasonable and effective utilization of robots can be achieved.
The use of service robots will be wide-spread in the future. The question stands, how robotics related services should be organized and what is their impact on the society. The objective of the ROSE Project is to study how robotics can assist in the creation and remodeling of products and services, and the renewal of welfare services. The project aims towards the co-creation of ethically viable services together with a wide group of stakeholders. The main stakeholder groups of ROSE are care professionals, the organizers of welfare services (both from the public and private sectors), members of the aging population, their next of kin and their caregivers, robotics and health technology companies and the public sector in general.
The research is focused on the coexistence of human beings and robots, the societal acceptance of robots and the welfare service systems. The following questions will be addressed:
- What are the expectations of different stakeholders in relation to service robots?
- What kind of tasks can service robots assume within the context of welfare services?
- What kind of ethical and social questions rise in connection to the coexistence of human beings and robots?
- How do robots alter the role of care professionals and what kind of competences are needed?
- Which factors drive the acceptance of robots?
- How will robots change welfare services?
- What kind of challenges emerge in the commercialization of new products and services?
The research will be conducted as several studies, where for example multidisciplinary user research is applied to assess the applicability of robotics in the interaction between elderly people and their care providers as well as the applicability and suitability of robotics in the other tasks of care providers. In addition, developing and researching the functionality of robots are also of interest to the project. The robots will be tested in real operational environments utilizing the Living Lab approach and service design principles, which include participatory co-creation methods. In this kind of approach the perceptions and expectations of different user groups are investigated. Finally, philosophical and ethical aspects of robotics are also in the focus of the ROSE project.
The data gathering work is conducted using a versatile set of methods, including scenario building, individual and group interviews, observational studies, questionnaires, participatory observation, panel discussions and workshops. Different stakeholders will be invited to participate in the various phases of the study, in the presentation of results and also in the assessment of the study. Dialogue and evaluative discussions with health and wellbeing decision makers will work towards developing the services while at the same time working towards the systemic level change. The responsible and effective approach, which the ROSE Project represents, places researchers into dialogue with society, and seeks solutions that are societally sustainable. The ROSE Project places special emphasis on user and stakeholder participation, openness and dialogue.