Projects

Several public grants support or have supported this innovative line of independent, international, and interdisciplinary research.

Current projects

Funding

Dec 2020 - Aug 2021

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 779966.

This project aims to link robot development and policymaking to reduce the complexity in robot legal compliance in the context of COVR.

COVR stands for "being safe around collaborative and versatile robots in shared spaces" and is an H2020 COVR Project is a European project that aims to reduce the complexity in safety certifying cobots significantly. In this respect, the project has developed the COVR Toolkit. This online tool guides developers on their legal compliance process, from helping them find relevant standards/directives/protocols to guide them on how to do a risk assessment.

Since robots widely differ in embodiment, capabilities, context of use, intended target users, and many regulations may already apply to them, having tools such as the COVR Toolkit can be very helpful. However, new robot applications may not fit into existing robot categories, and legislation (private and public policy making) might be outdated and include confusing types. In the context of H2020 COVR, LIAISON investigates to what extent we could use compliance tools as data generators for policymakers to unravel an optimal regulatory framing for existing and emerging robot technologies. The goal is to link robot development and policymaking to reduce the complexity in robot legal compliance.

In this respect, LIAISON will conceive a practical way to extract compliance and technical knowledge from compliance tools that help developers comply with the legislation, such as the COVR toolkit. The goal is to direct this knowledge to policymakers to help them work out an adequate regulatory framing (including change, revise, or reinterpret) that reflect the existing and emerging robot landscape.

LIAISON aligns with the overall H2020 COVR goal to reduce complexity in safety certifying robots by providing policymakers with the necessary knowledge about legal inconsistencies, new categories, or new safety requirements (including psychological) to update existing frameworks. For more information read this journal publication and in this book chapter.

GoodBrother aims to increase the awareness of the ethical, legal, and privacy issues associated with audio- and video-based monitoring and to propose privacy-aware working solutions for assisted living

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) is a funding organisation for the creation of research networks, called COST Actions (CA). These networks offer an open space for collaboration among scientists across Europe (and beyond) and thereby give impetus to research advancements and innovation. The eLaw Center for Law and Digital Technologies participates actively in the CA19121 - Network on Privacy-Aware Audio- and Video-Based Applications for Active and Assisted Living, also called GoodBrother.

Europe faces crucial challenges regarding health and social care due to the demographic change and current economic context. Active and Assisted Living (AAL) are a possible solution to face them. AAL aims at improving the health, quality of life, and wellbeing of older, impaired, and frail people. AAL systems use different sensors to monitor the environment and its dwellers. Cameras and microphones are being more frequently used for AAL. They monitor an environment and gather information, being the most straightforward and natural way of describing events, persons, objects, actions, and interactions. Recent advances have given these devices the ability to ‘see’ and ‘hear.’ However, their use can be seen as intrusive by some end users (assisted persons and professional and informal caregivers.)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) establishes the obligation for technologies to meet data protection principles by design and data protection by default. Therefore, AAL solutions must consider privacy-by-design methodologies in order to protect the fundamental rights of those being monitored.

GoodBrother aims to increase the awareness of the ethical, legal, and privacy issues associated with audio- and video-based monitoring and to propose privacy-aware working solutions for assisted living by creating an interdisciplinary community of researchers and industrial partners from different fields (computing, engineering, healthcare, law, sociology) and other stakeholders (users, policymakers, public services), stimulating new research and innovation. GoodBrother will offset the “Big Brother” sense of continuous monitoring by increasing user acceptance, exploiting these new solutions, and improving market reach.

Prof. B. H. M. Custers and Dr. E. Fosch Villaronga are Members of the Committee of GoodBrother and will actively contribute to Work Package 1 on Social responsibility: Ethical, legal, social, data protection and privacy issues.

More information can be found on Twitter @goodbrotherCOST, or on Linkedin.

Funding

Sept 2021 - Sept 2024

Funding

March 2017 - Sept 2021

The Cost Action 16116 on Wearable Robots aims to integrate and develop diverse expertise and trans-domain competences essential to the development of a new generation of Wearable Robots, characterized by better adjustment to the human users, as well as to specific domains of application, thus allowing it to become a mainstream technology with potential for greatly expanded socio-economical impact.

Heike Felzmann, Anne-Marie Hughes, Alexandra Kapeller, Eduard Fosch-Villaronga were the co-leaders of the Working Group 4 on the Ethical, Legal, and Societal Aspects. The Ethical, Legal and Societal (ELS) aspects of Wearable Robotics (WRs) are wide in scope, ranging from individual’s personal experience of using WRs to larger social concerns about human-enhancement or possible economic implications. The working group on ELS engages with these issues in order to help create technologies that have high rates of user-acceptability and help to improve the user’s Quality of Life (QoL).

This working group will work towards the following goals: identify the values that motivate both building and using the technology; consider possible tensions between values; and, recommend ways of multi-stakeholder collaboration. Examples of ELS areas of interest in WRs include: user’s personal experience, public acceptability, driving forces for use and development, potential economic shifts, and consequences of human-enhancement. The working group is interdisciplinary, and draws upon ELS theories to analyze various WR applications at all stages of development.

The working group’s activities include: multidisciplinary workshops, collaborative research projects, STSMs, and joint publications. One of the major inputs is a Topical issue on the Ethical, Legal, and Societal Aspects of Wearable Robotics in the Paladyn Journal of Behavioral Robotics.

Past projects

Healthcare robots and AI investigates the legal and regulatory aspects of healthcare robot and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies

This research project investigates the legal and regulatory implications of the growing inter-dependence and interactions of tangible and virtual elements in cyber-physical systems for healthcare purposes. Typical examples of such cyber-physical systems are cognitive therapeutic robots, physical rehabilitation robots, assistants, and surgery robots. As these technological developments may raise different types of issues, ranging from the invasion of privacy to autonomy suppression or human-human interaction decrease, there may be a need for (some forms of) regulation. The project will highlight specific problems and challenges in regulating complex and dynamic cyber-physical ecosystems in concrete healthcare applications and will explore potential solutions.

This project is part of the LEaDing Postdocs Fellowship Programme, a project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 707404. Part of this fellowship is carried in collaboration with AiTech Center at TU Delft, which is a multidisciplinary research program on awareness, concepts, and design & engineering of autonomous technology under meaningful human control. The output of this research can be found here.

Funding

Jan 2020 - Dec 2021

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 707404.

The Microsoft Cloud Computing Research Center funded a one-year position at Queen Mary University of London (UK, Oct 2017-2018), to investigate the legal and regulatory aspects of cloud robotics in the Cloud Legal Project.

Within the Department of Governance and Technology for Sustainability (CSTM) at the University of Twente, the chair of Law, Governance & Technology comes with a focus on the legal design of ‘smart rules & regimes’. This group funded a one-year postdoctoral position (Oct 2016-Sept 2017) to work on iterative regulatory processes for robot technologies.

Funding

Oct 2013 - Sept 2016

The Joint International Doctoral Degree in “Law, Science and Technology” is an interdisciplinary integrated doctorate designed to address new challenges in legal, socio-ethical and technical domains arising from the information society and newly emerging technologies.

I was awarded a full scholarship to complete the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate (EMJD) in Law, Science, and Technology, where I developed a legal and ethical framework for personal care robots. I researched in Bologna, Turin, Vilnius, Hannover, Barcelona, and Pittsburgh; and visited Tufts University (USA) to work on robots for children with autism, and at EPFL (Switzerland) to work on exoskeletons.