Trust in Robots - Trusting Robots

2 Curriculum TrustRobots

The Curriculum for the doctoral college TrustRobots reflects the transdisciplinary topic and approach, organises intensive supervision and collaboration of the PhD students, provides possibilities for close work with robots and opportunities for networking as well as being established in the scientific community.

2.1 Courses

Following the general requirements for PhD studies, the doctoral students will have to select courses for the amount of 18 ECTS points from a list of offered courses. The curriculum proposes to combine common lectures/seminars with a seminar series and open seminars. The curriculum is built up of the following elements (Figure 3):

Figure 3: Overview of the proposed Curriculum "TrustRobots". Fundamentals and Methods introduces common ground in HRI, adds complementary transferable skills (team building, inter/transdisciplinary research, etc.) and an open specialisation. The DC will establish a Seminar Series the will evolve its pattern of the three years. Privatissma go into depth. In addition, extra-curricular measure foster collaboration, creative approaches, and synergies in collaborating in a joint space such as a Living Lab.

2.1.1 Fundamentals and Methods

Fundamentals and Methods draw from the pool of available lectures at TU Wien. A fundamental aspect of all PhD topics is to operate with a robot and study different notions of trust. Hence, human-robot interaction is essential and will be given to all PhD students of the DC. The course 376.057 Basics in Human-Robot Interaction (Weiss) presents an overview on qualitative and quantitative Human-Robot Interaction evaluation methods, tools and techniques for user involvement. This course covers the most important state-of-the-art research methods including:

  • Context evaluation, user requirements analysis and acceptance studies
  • Development of HRI user scenarios
  • User-Centred robot design methodology
  • Qualitative data collection methods for HRI
  • Real-world HRI and long-term evaluation 'in the wild'
  • Controlled laboratory quantitative experiments where participants are exposed to robot behaviours in a simulation context
  • Wizard-of-OZ early-phase experimentation which involves controlling the robot to simulate technical capabilities and assess user responses and experiences
  • Measures and scales from HRI as well as social psychology and communication research adapted to HRI
  • Longitudinal studies to investigate longer term HRI with repeated measures to identify change in user experience, attitudes, and behaviours
Two Individual Method Seminars complement the fundamental methods:
  • Individual Method Seminar I encompasses Transferable Skills including Team building or transdisciplinary research as part of the qualification profile.
  • Individual Method Seminar II is open and allows PhD candidates to specialise drawing from the large offers available at TU Wien or other universities.

Courses will be drawn from a pool and be open for individual selection. However, to foster further joint work we propose specifically relevant courses for Individual Method Courses I (Transferable Skills courses) and Individual Methods Courses II, e.g.:
  • 259.337 Technics and Civilisation (Schürer): Theories of technology, ethical questions.
  • 251.060 Archeology of Space (Schürer): Theories of public, semi-public and private spaces
  • 376.055 Robot Vision: Selected Topics (Vincze): Understanding human and robot visual perception, machine and deep learning
  • 187.A69 User Research Methoden (Fitzpatrick): Applied knowledge on end user involvement in Human-Computer Interaction
  • 188.468/188.469 Visual Analysis of Human Motion (Gelautz): Techniques for analyzing and visualizing human motion
  • 330.265/ 330.273 Assistance Systems in Manufacturing 1 / 2 (Schlund): Advanced technological, organisational and societal aspects as well as a comprehensive understanding of the analysis and design of assistance systems in manufacturing.

2.1.2 Seminar Series

To augment the lectures available at TU Wien, we propose to establish the seminar series "Robots, Humans, Trust, and Society". It will be will be especially designed to assure a rapid start into the transdisciplinary topic.

In the beginning of the DC, the series will start out with lectures from the supervising researchers. Invited experts will complement the initial round. For a first list see Section 2.2. The second year we will move more and more to expert talks to selected topics that emerge as relevant for the work of the DC team. We expect to exploit synergies with other projects, workshops or conferences organised in Vienna, or experts invited as reviewer of other PhDs, or specifically applying for travel funding, to cover travel costs. The final year moves on to include the DC colleagues to give their first talks themselves as part of this series. The Seminar Series will be open beyond the DC to all interested.

2.1.3 Privatissima

Privatissima will institutionalize the planned intensive supervision and mentoring. We foresee this at two levels: (1) Group privatissima exploit common aspects of the topics and fundamentals fostering the transdisciplinary education. We will also exploit available common spaces and demos, Living Lab, etc. In addition (2), the individual privatissima deepen research between the supervisor and the PhD candidate. This also adds to the required ECTS points to fulfil the formal requirement. Privatissima will also have the task to lead to publications: a first workshop paper in year one, one or two more substantial papers in year two, leading finally to a journal publication in year three. Due to the collaborative nature of the topic and the DC setup, it is expected that PhD students will also contribute to a few of the papers of colleagues.

2.1.4 Extra-Curricular Activities

These activities comprise relevant aspects for implementing a creative and productive working environment specific to this topic:

  • Living Lab: Students will get started in setting up the joint Living Lab. The idea is to assemble robots and researchers to disperse in the daily use of robots to get a deeper understanding of and "feel" for daily interactions with robots. Students join again in the end of year one to give first evidence of their achievements, possibly together with a first publication, see Figure 3. The joint Living Lab will be continued as group workspace, possibly also used for group privatissima, and shall lead to joint demos in year two and finally to individual demos in year three. Also, see Section 2.1 for how this will be implemented.
  • PhD Schools: the most effective means to expose students to a larger spectrum of topics and to initiate networking in the relevant scientific community are summer or winter schools. We plan two such events: (1) in the first year the DC will organise a TrustRobot PhD school at TU Wien and (2) an fostering the visit to an external PhD school to deepen the respective PhD topic.
  • TrustRobot PhD School at TU Wien: We will exploit IEEE funding to invite external experts (already practiced at the Austrian Winter School in 2016), a combination of local expertise and hands on with external expertise, with the aim to push towards deepening methods and initiate international networking. The school will not only include the ten DC students but also be open to international participation. We will select candidates from an open call.
  • Second, external PhD school: should have a complementary topic suitable for deepening the expertise of the individual PhD students. These events will act to further establish individual research networks by the candidates.
  • Another open measure is to foster stays at collaborating institutions, for example related to the projects that top up the salary, or to gain better insight in a relevant topic. Section 2.2 lists some options.

2.2 Supervision, Mentoring and Transdisciplinary Education

We are convinced that the researchers' substantive exposure to the technology they analyse is of fundamental importance. We therefore strive for implementing the DC as Living Lab, in which robots and humans cohabit the same facilities. Particularly for the DC TrustRobots in which we address - on exploratory as well as experimental grounds - fundamental challenges of the implementation of robots into society, it is important, that researchers will not only approach the challenges from a theoretical standpoint. Individual experiences of (trusting) relationships to robots will trigger a reflective and responsible approach to the interesting phenomena.

During our research within TU Wien it has been indicated that the TU would have some available facilities and lab spaces to create a Living Lab. Particularly the library of TU Wien has confirmed interest in collaborating with the DC and providing resources for a Living Lab. Mag. Beate Guba proposed to use one of the group study rooms and the public space on 5th floor of the main library (Resselgasse 4) and will be included in the steering committee to assure that activities will be well planned and communicated. Similarly, the facilities of the Pilot Fabrik TU Wien may be used at least partly as lab facilities for the DC. Furthermore, the Vision for Robotics lab at ACIN will be free after the review of the Squirrel project in Spring 2018.

Although students should spend substantial amounts of time in the Living Labs with sufficient co-working spaces, they should also be integrated in the partners' research groups to maintain high level of individual supervision. The proposed doctoral college offers intense supervision to the students and contains the following formats (see also previous section):

  • Individual supervision (Privatissima)
  • Group supervision (half-yearly)
  • Regular workshops of all students and supervisors (one per semester)
  • Yearly, reflective workshop on research approach and methods, in the second and third year integrated into the Seminar Series
  • PhD school organised by the DC
Regular individual Privatissima with the first and second supervisors (as defined in Section 4) will provide continuous support and assure development of all doctoral students. All scientific partners include experienced PhD supervisors.

In order to share experience and to discuss possible problems arising, a half-yearly group supervision opportunity will be implemented. This serves to establish connections between students and supervisors transdisciplinary discussion and a joint, transdisciplinary assessment of the students' progress. It is the nucleus to set-up and evaluate the joint work in the Living Lab. It also serves to provide a basis for crisis management.

Apart from that, we will organize one joint workshop per semester for all members of the DC (students and supervisors) to regularly exchange ideas, show individual progresses, and provide the chance to discuss open issues in a larger group of researchers working on related topics. These workshops will also provide the basis for the planning of joint publications. By building several smaller teams with similar interest, it is intended that students learn to organize themselves as well as to learn teamwork and the typical language used by other students in related fields. The transdisciplinary education is a major advantage offering expert knowledge in different but related fields and thus broadening the scope of all participants.

Additionally to the content related meetings, we will have one meeting a year in which we reflect on different epistemological approaches to robotics research from different disciplines. The thorough reflection of one's own and other's disciplinary approaches, research methods and applied tools and technology requires openness and flexibility of all DC members but will allow for cross-fertilization and mutual learning within the DC. We plan to invite philosophy of science experts to coach us through the project meetings dedicated to the reflective transdisciplinary approach.

2.3 Scientific Community, Networking and Research Management Skills

An excellent opportunity for students to be introduced to the scientific robotics, HRI, and related communities is to provide them access to the research networks the research partners have developed over the years. Several measures incorporate this aspect into the curriculum:

  • Exposure to the scientific community with a first PhD school organised locally. This also provides an opportunity of having a first glimpse into organising such events.
  • Seminar Series extends to invite renowned researchers internationally and provide for ample opportunity to discuss beyond the seminar itself.
  • External PhD school, selected to be relevant for the respective topic, will drastically enlarge scientific networking
  • Embedding of the DC researchers in local research groups and projects, complementary funding from 25h/week to full positions.
  • Exposure to international experts at the PhD school, the Seminar Series, and potential visits to collaborating research labs.

Additional doctoral college activities will be organized supplementing students education. These activities are designed to lead students to becoming independent members of the scientific community as well as cooperating on a doctoral college level with each other. In this process, students are expected to grow into the tasks expected of them in scientific workplaces:

  • Students will collaborate on integrating their work in one or more of the robotic platforms available within the doctoral college (Figure 2). Subsequent to a training unit on robot integration, they will plan and prepare ideas for joint demonstrations. They will then spend a week together in which they develop joint demonstrations using the robotic platforms. This activity constitutes not only one of the core competencies of engineers in robotics; it is also designed to enhance team building, management and leadership skills.
  • Students will be asked to agree on researchers to invite the planned summer school. Thus, they will get the opportunity to participate in international networks and to plan and take responsibility for their own learning process. This will help prepare them also for their organization of an international workshop.
  • Students will be responsible for organizing jointly an international workshop on "trustworthy robotics", which will serve to mark the end of the doctoral college and to present the results to an international audience.
  • Together with their supervisors, students are going to develop their personal career development plans. The challenge is to identify possibilities in the emerging field of robotics.

2.4 Integration into Scientific Work at TU Wien

Robotics research is a core science discipline as it brings together various engineering disciplines by stating multifaceted problems. Hence, it is constantly triggering demand for research and development in many other science disciplines.

The proposed doctoral college provides the opportunity to create a new public visible centre of robotics and the consequences of future societies including robots in Vienna at the TU Wien. As already outlined above, students will be integrated into the individual research teams and join the living lab and group Privatissima to profit from synergies of a large group of working on a common topic (see Figure 3). While the integration at the individual team allows to dig deep into specific research topics, the Living Lab approach will foster a better understanding of the socio-economic and cultural aspects of integrating robots into our society.

Additionally, we take advantage of ongoing initiatives at TU Wien. Collaboration with the Vienna PhD School of Informatics will provide further synergies and benefits to our doctoral students, ranging from specialized courses (such as a recently established course on scientific proposal writing organized by the PhD School of Informatics and TU's Research and Transfer Support Department) to social events (for example, organized museum visits) that are particularly targeting international students.

Furthermore, TrustRobots will be tied closely with the TU Pilot Factory in order to create synergies with respect to fundamental research and industrial application. The Pilot Factory will be a test bed for some of the work of the DC and will also provide a stage for possible demonstrator and showcase applications.

TrustRobots will further establish and deepen inter-facultative exchange, foster junior researchers to create a new science culture and methodology that has not been possible at TU Wien so far: studying in depth and in wider context and transdisciplinarity and experience teamwork in small, highly supervised research groups as well as a open living lab to actually live the challenge of transdisciplinary research in robotics.

2.5 Guaranteeing additional Qualifications and Transferable Skills

The doctoral college will contribute to producing a new generation of scientists who have transdisciplinary skills and knowledge required to develop new solutions to acute problems in robot technology. Due to their transdisciplinary training, these scientists will be open-minded, flexible, and capable of taking a holistic perspective on a broad range of issues in robotics. They will be able to serve as mediators between engineers, human factors researchers and users, provided with the necessary communication skills to bridge engineering and humanities disciplines.

In addition to the domain-specific skills and methodologies, students will be provided with a thorough training in transferable skills that equip them with the necessary competencies for academic careers as well as for successful careers in industry. These comprise courses in the subject's general research methods and scientific writing, research presentation skills, time management, team working skills, standardization, grant application and leadership skills, as well as gender and ethical skills.

Example courses from the TU Wien LVA appropriate for the DC are listed below (if not yet available in English, but relevant for the DC students, courses may be given in English):

  • 187.250 Zwischen Karriere und Barriere
  • 187.272 Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Grundlagen der Informatik
  • 187.B12 Denkweisen der Informatik
  • 187.B09 Design Thinking: Ideation
  • 195.109 Effective Research Project Proposal Writing for Public Funding: Write up Your Research Ideas
  • 259.280 Talking (Presentation, Debate, Rhetorics)
  • 314.018 Gruppendynamisches Seminar
  • 314.699 Kommunikation und Rhetorik
  • 330.274 Grundlagen der Montageplanung und -gestaltung
  • 330.137 Gruppencoaching
  • 330.140 Karriereplanung und Selbstmanagement
  • 330.138 Leadership Simulation
  • 376.068 Product Development based on the Example of Robots

Due to the exposure to various formats of individual and joint supervision, reflective meetings and methodological support at an international level with the DC we expect that graduates will not only develop team interaction and communications skills, but also profound competencies to reflect on the methodological foundation of PhD research as well as on the qualitative and quantitative methods in their particular research field and related fields.

In summary, the students will acquire - apart from methodological and technical skills and know how in the respective research discipline - competencies in the following areas:

  • the ability to develop innovative ideas in the respective research field and communicate those to fellow researchers as well as to scientists from other disciplines
  • scientific writing and communication,
  • ability to reflect on technical, social, and ethical issues, and
  • to plan and organize research projects in a particular competence field.

2.6 Research Plan

In principle, the PhD studies will follow the research plan outlined in Table 1. The coursework covers fundamentals and selected topics of the related research areas along with transferable skills, as described in detail in Section 2. An important part of each student's research activities during the first year will be the preparation of the PhD research proposal. The proposal will be submitted and publicly defended towards the end of the first year and receive scientific feedback from the supervisor group and expert panel (see the college's overall structure in Figure 6). Throughout the dissertation process, our doctoral college will follow the principal guidelines set up by TU Wien regarding structured doctoral programs, for example, regarding the selection of independent external reviewers for the final thesis evaluation and defense.

Table 1: Three-year research plan for doctoral students.
Year 1

1st semester 2nd semester
2 months
  • dissertation topic interpretation and acquaintance with research areas

4 months
  • research phase and development of working hypotheses
  • courses according to Figure 3 and areas of research
  • experiences in the living lab
  • critical review of working hypotheses
6 months
  • research phase and refinement of working hypotheses
  • courses according to Figure 3 and areas of research
  • experiences in the living lab
  • preparation and submission of research proposal
  • public defense of research proposal

Year 2

3rd semester 4th semester
5 months
  • research phase and refinement of research hypotheses
  • courses according to Figure 3 and areas of research
  • experiments with developed working hypotheses in the living lab

1 month
  • colloquium with all students and advisors: debate on working hypotheses
  • critical review and feedback
6 months
  • overlapping phase of research and experimentation.
  • courses according to Figure 3 and areas of research
  • experiments with developed hypotheses in the living lab
  • critical review and feedback

Year 3

5th semester 6th semester
6 months
  • overlapping phase of research and experimentation / evaluation
  • courses according to Figure 3 and areas of research
  • start of thesis writing
6 months
  • final phase of research and experimentation/evaluation
  • privatissima (according to Figure 3)
  • thesis writing and preparation of defense