Workshop Series on the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues of Robots in Therapy and Education


This is the official website for the Workshop Series entitled “ELS of Social Robots in Therapy and Education”. Our aim is to conduct research on the ethical, legal and social (ELS) issues concerning the adoption of social robots in the contexts of therapy and education.

The workshop has multiple objectives:

  • Collect all the ELS concerns, problems and difficulties concerning this type of technology – focusing on ethics, privacy and liability
  • Collect different opinions from all the involved stakeholders: therapists, roboticists, industry, academics, legal practitioners, etc.
  • Enable discussions on the ELS aspects on an interdisciplinary and multicultural scale
  • Provide a comprehensive roadmap for solving these issues
  • Provide the European Commission with an informed vision of what are the trends on these matters

These workshop series bring together researchers from different disciplines, backgrounds and cultures to provide interdisciplinary insights into the current legal and ethical discussions about the impact of robots on society. This will serve to gather different scenarios on the topic. It will deepen our understanding of the real concerns and problems that researchers, teachers, therapists, and legal scholars are currently facing. It will also ensure an appropriate balance between innovation and user rights.


Social robots are increasingly utilized in therapy and education. Yet, the European Parliament report from 2017 does not include therapeutic or educational robots in it. Therapeutic robots include physiotherapeutic robots which have a close physical human robot interaction – exoskeletons and physical assistant robots; but also cognitive therapeutic robots for users with neurodevelopmental disorders, including traumatic brain injury or autism spectrum disorder. Educational robots include all those social and non-social robots deployed in educational settings with typical neurodeveloped children.

We aim at addressing such concerns in a constructive and proactive manner including use cases and round tables. The workshops take up important ELS challenges that come with the introduction of robots in therapy and education. Firstly, it deals with aspects of human dignity and the questions of whether and how social robots endanger individuals’ dignities for example by implying an overly simplistic model of human agency or by discriminating against certain population groups. Secondly, the workshops revolve around the topic of privacy. In this context, social robots, especially those in therapy and education where vulnerable population groups are involved, come with various privacy challenges: surveillance, access to private rooms, excessive data collection, and complex design architectures which conceal robots’ privacy-infringing behavior (black-boxing). Thirdly, social robots create tensions in society and in legal systems because questions such as who or what should be liable for their autonomous acts remain unanswered. In seeking solutions to the problems encountered, we will consider how to allocate liability to different entities such as manufacturers, users, and robots themselves.


The workshop series aim at informing current European policymaking initiatives with ground information about other types of robots currently overlooked by regulators.

(*) The Robot in the website is Hookie, the CEEO – Tufts University low-cost social robot prototype for autistic children. Hookie was developed under this project.