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Talk held at EASST 2014 Conference, Torun (Poland)
Several EU funded projects focus on assistive robots as Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) technologies. This field of applied robotics is defined as robots performing physical or "social" tasks for the well-being of persons with disability whether in domestic or care facility contexts. The submission presents two cases of assistive robotic projects out of an ongoing, comparative dissertation project. In both projects researchers deployed assistive robots to elderly, a market-ready solution for the treatment of dementia and a prototype platform for physical assistance at home.
Due to diverging research interest and method set, the projects followed two contrasting ways of integrating the elderly and their needs into the research: A "top down" approach on the organizational level of elderly care and a participatory design approach on the other hand. The submission reconstructs those two tactics from participant observation and expert interviews and focuses on the question, how these different procedures co-construct the user and it's needs. The analysis of the methods and rhetorics observed shows for example how different stake holders of elderly care have to be integrated while the actual users are systematically blanked out. The use of the participatory design approach on the other hand led to an interesting entanglement of community work amongst recruited "expert lay users" and the researchers.
In comparing these tactics the submission seeks to contribute to the question, how research projects on assistive robots as personal health technologies shape elderly and disabled as users in order to make them fit into the needs of there research.