Communicating with Robots and Bots

Robots and bots are being developed to populate our homes, workplaces and social spaces, as well as the online spaces we frequent. How do people communicate with robots and bots? What does the future hold for human-robot communication and collaboration

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After a course session ends, it will be archived.
Estimated 4 weeks
2–3 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed

About this course

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Although there are some robots you might never get to meet (or might hope you never meet), such as those sent to space, war or rescue situations, many other robots and bots are being developed to populate people's homes, the online spaces they frequent, their workplaces, and the social spaces they visit.

This course explores how people communicate with robots and bots in everyday life, both now and into the future.

Module 1 discusses the difficulties of defining what a robot is, as well as briefly introducing bots.

Module 2 focuses on bots, chatbots and socialbots in detail, to consider how people communicate with these programs in online spaces, as well as some ethical questions these interactions raise.

Robots in the home are the subject of Module 3, with a discussion of robots designed to act as personal assistants leading into some examples of assistive and care robots, as well as telepresence robots that allow people to interact with one another at a distance through a robot.

Module 4 considers robots at work, from the potential of telepresence robots to enable remote operations, to robots designed to share people's workspaces, and potentially even take their jobs. One example of a public space where robots might alter people's working and social lives greatly is on the roads with the development of self-driving vehicles, robots that need to be able to communicate with their passengers as well as with other road users.

At a glance

What you'll learn

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  • Some ways to define what robots and bots are
  • How people interpret robots and bots as communicating, social, even emotional others
  • Whether robots and bots need to communicate in humanlike ways to be understood
  • The potential of robots with non-humanlike form, behaviour and communication

Module 1: Robots, bots and communication

  • How robots are presented in popular culture and the media
  • Ways to define a robot
  • Why people build (or don't build) humanoid or humanlike robots
  • The difference between robots and bots

Module 2: Bots and socialbots

  • What it's like to interact with some bots
  • How and why bots are designed to be humanlike in order to be 'socialbots'
  • Broader conceptions of bots and their activities in digital spaces
  • Socialbots and bots as they become more specifically embodied

Module 3: Robots in the home

  • The potential of more sophisticated robots designed to act as personal assistants
  • Robots that do more practical work around the home
  • Assistive and care robots, designed to help older adults and people with disabilities of all ages
  • Telepresence robots that allow people to interact with one another at a distance in more flexible and active ways than teleconferencing technologies such as Skype or Facetime

Module 4: Robots at work and on the road

  • Remote operations as an extension of telepresence
  • Robots at work more generally and the question of whether your job might be at risk
  • The introduction of self-driving and semi-autonomous vehicles onto road systems also populated with human drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  • How ethics can be built into robots and the importance of ethics for designers and manufacturers of robotic technologies

About the instructors

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners from one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.