2023/03 Accounting for Diversity in Robot Design, Testbeds, and Safety Standardization


“Science has started highlighting the importance of integrating diversity considerations in medicine and healthcare. However, there is little research into how these considerations apply, affect, and should be integrated into concrete healthcare innovations such as rehabilitation robotics. Robot policy ecosystems are also oblivious to the vast landscape of gender identity understanding, often ignoring these considerations and failing to guide developers in integrating them to ensure they meet user needs. While this ignorance may be for the traditional heteronormative configuration of the medical, technical, and legal world, the ending result is the failure of roboticists to consider them in robot development. However, missing diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations can result in robotic systems that can compromise user safety, be discriminatory, and not respect their fundamental rights. This paper explores the impact of overlooking gender and sex considerations in robot design on users. We focus on the safety standard for personal care robots ISO 13482:2014 and zoom in on lower-limb exoskeletons. Our findings signal that ISO 13482:2014 has significant gaps concerning intersectional aspects like sex, gender, age, or health conditions and, because of that, developers are creating robot systems that, despite adherence to the standard, can still cause harm to users. In short, our observations show that robotic exoskeletons operate intimately with users’ bodies, thus exemplifying how gender and medical conditions might introduce dissimilarities in human–robot interaction that, as long as they remain ignored in regulations, may compromise user safety. We conclude the article by putting forward particular recommendations to update ISO 13482:2014 to reflect better the broad diversity of users of personal care robots.”