Demographic change and the growing shortage of care professionals clearly show that our increasingly ageing society needs technical support in care. Therefore, robots, especially social or even care robots, will become an elementary part of our everyday life in the long run. But what should these robots look like?
In the research project "OtherCare", Frederike Jung, a researcher in the Society Department at OFFIS, critically examines the current design trends of human-like "humanoid" robots: If the human appearance is imitated in a machine, this can cause a queasy feeling among users (Uncanny Valley). In addition, the design tempts people to transfer stereotypes to the humanised technology, such as the assumption that a caregiver - even one made of sheet metal and cables - should be female.
Convinced that such perspectives do not fit into our modern society, Jung explored the design potential of non-humanoid care robots. She equipped a robot implemented for virtual reality with various behavioural signals and investigated whether this could convey attributes relevant to nursing. Her research approach was awarded the OLDIE Prize 2021 for the best thesis in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oldenburg and came second in the Helene Lange Prize of the EWE Foundation.
In her work, Frederike Jung placed particular emphasis on considering various interdisciplinary approaches - from (social) psychology to robotics - and placing people at the centre of development. That is why she visited care institutions and conducted interviews and surveys. Her findings provide new evidence that non-human-like robots must first and foremost convey competence - an attribute that is far from being gendered.
Beyond the academic setting, her robotics project brought her together with the Oldenburg State Theatre. For the "Technical Ballroom" project, in which topics of digitalisation are brought to the theatre stage, Frederike Jung collaborates for artistic-scientific cooperation.
Overall, the "OtherCare" project is an example of how excellent computer science research involves people and unites diverse perspectives.
For her future at OFFIS, Frederike Jung continues to see computer science as interdisciplinary and creative. In her current project "PANDIA", she is therefore exploring in collaboration with artists how virtual reality can shed new light on the topic of data protection and privacy in our digital society.