A method for integrating ethics into the design of robots

Aimee van Wynsberghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – With the rapid and pervasive introduction of robots into human environments, ethics scholars along with roboticists are asking how ethics can be applied to the discipline of robotics. The purpose of this paper is to provide a concrete example of incorporating ethics into the design process of a robot in healthcare.

Design/methodology/approach – The approach for including ethics in the design process of care robots used in this paper is called the Care-Centered Value Sensitive Design (CCVSD) approach. The CCVSD approach presented here provides both an outline of the components demanding ethical attention as well as a step-by-step manner in which such considerations may proceed in a prospective manner throughout the design process of a robot. This begins from the moment of idea generation and continues throughout the design of various prototypes. In this paper, this approach's utility and prospective methodology are illustrated by proposing a novel care robot, the “wee-bot”, for the collection and testing of urine samples in a hospital context.

Findings – The results of applying the CCVSD approach inspired the design of a novel robot for the testing of urine in pediatric oncology patients – the “wee-bot” robot – and showed that it is possible to successfully incorporate ethics into the design of a care robot by exploring and prescribing design requirements. In other words, the use of the CCVSD approach allowed for the translation of ethical values into technical design requirements as was shown in this paper.

Practical implications: This paper provides a practical solution to the question of how to incorporate ethics into the design of robots and bridges the gap between the work of roboticists and robot ethicists so that they may work together in the design of a novel care robot.

Social implications: In providing a solution to the issue of how to address ethical issues in the design of robots, the aim is to mitigate issues of societal concern regarding the design, development and implementation of robots in healthcare.

Originality/value: This paper is the first and only presentation of a concrete prospective methodology for including ethics into the design of robots. While the example given here is tailored to the healthcare context, the approach can be adjusted to fit another context and/or robot design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-440
Number of pages8
JournalIndustrial robot
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Robot ethics
  • Value-sensitive design
  • Care robots
  • Ethics and design
  • Design and robots
  • Robots
  • Ethics


Dive into the research topics of 'A method for integrating ethics into the design of robots'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this