When Exceptions are the Norm: Exploring the Role of Consent in HRI

Vasanth Sarathy, Thomas Arnold, Matthias Scheutz

HRI researchers have made major strides in developing robotic architectures that are capable of reading a limited set of social cues and producing behaviors that enhance their likeability and feeling of comfort amongst humans. However, the cues in these models are fairly direct and the interactions largely dyadic. To capture the normative qualities of interaction more robustly, we propose consent as a distinct, critical area for HRI research. Convening important insights in existing HRI work around topics like touch, proxemics, gaze, and moral norms, the notion of consent reveals key expectations that can shape how a robot acts in social space. By sorting various kinds of consent through social and legal doctrine, we delineate empirical and technical questions to meet consent challenges faced in major application domains and robotic roles. Attention to consent could show, for example, how extraordinary, norm-violating actions can be justified by agents and accepted by those around them. We argue that operationalizing ideas from legal scholarship can better guide how robotic systems might cultivate and sustain proper forms of consent.

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