Robots responding to care needs? A multitasking care robot pursued for 25 years, available products offer simple entertainment and instrumental assistance

Lina Van Aerschot, Jaana Parviainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Twenty-five years ago, robotics guru Joseph Engelberger had a mission to motivate research teams all over the world to design the ‘Elderly Care Giver’, a multitasking personal robot assistant for everyday care needs in old age. In this article, we discuss how this vision of omnipotent care robots has influenced the design strategies of care robotics, the development of R&D initiatives and ethics research on use of care robots. Despite the expectations of robots revolutionizing care of older people, the role of robots in human care has remained marginal. The value of world trade in service robots, including care robots, is rather small. We argue that the implementation of robots in care is not primarily due to negative user attitudes or ethical problems, but to problems in R&D and manufacturing. The care robots currently available on the market are capable of simple, repetitive tasks or colloquial interaction. Thus far, also research on care robots is mostly conducted using imaginary scenarios or small-scale tests built up for research purposes. To develop useful and affordable robot solutions that are ethically, socially and ecologically sustainable, we suggest that robot initiatives should be evaluated within the framework of care ecosystems. This implies that attention has to be paid to the social, emotional and practical contexts in which care is given and received. Also, the political, economic and ecological realities of organizing care and producing technological commodities have to be acknowledged. It is time to openly discuss the drivers behind care robot initiatives to outline the bigger picture of organizing care under conditions of limited resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-256
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • affective
  • affektiivisuus
  • care ecosystem
  • care ethics
  • care robots
  • effective
  • hoivaekosysteemi
  • hoivaetiikka
  • hoivarobotit
  • robot design
  • robottimuotoilu
  • tehokkuus

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

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