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John Lewis creates framework for human-robot interaction

John Lewis Partnership is one of the companies behind an open framework which will help companies understand the relationship between human and robots.

John Lewis has joined Small Robot Company, strategic design consultancy Method and a number of leading robotics companies and industry bodies in the UK, to design a blueprint for “Human Robotic Interaction” (HRI) in the 21st century.

The open framework – which aims to evolve over time to help build “safe and ethical robotics that consumers can trust” – was revealed at Google’s London headquarters today (August 1). It will then go to public consultation, supported by organisations such as the National Trust and LEAF.


The framework will look to understand and define:

• The proper characteristics and states of the robot persona

• How the user/ robot relationship should function

• How robots should be properly programmed - to ensure people find them engaging, trust-provoking and safe

• How a robot should interact within the boundaries of its geospatial map

• How a robot should respond to humans it encounters during the course of its work


“Britain is a melting pot for robotics innovation and the use of autonomous robot technology to assist human workers is a very real prospect for the future,” said John Vary, futurologist at the John Lewis Partnership.

“Before we get there, we need to define how that relationship works. The John Lewis Partnership started out as a radical experiment in industrial democracy and innovation continues to remain at the heart of our business today. Therefore we are uniquely placed to support businesses like the Small Robot Company as this technology evolves.”

John Lewis Partnership first worked with Small Robot Company last year on a trial using robots to harvest product on the Waitrose & Partners farm in Leckford, Hampshire.

Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder, Small Robot Company, added: “Real-world robotics is set to explode. Powered by artificial intelligence, robots are now becoming truly autonomous, and we're about to see a massive influx of commercial robots in the consumer domain. In our shops, our factories, our hotels, our streets and our fields. It's vital that consumers can trust and feel comfortable with these encounters. So we're launching a cross-industry initiative to create a blueprint for robotics in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Other collaborators on the Human Robotic Interaction initiative include: Method, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, The Turing Institute, The Leverhulme Institute, robotics designers Konpanion and industrial robotics start-up ZOA Robotics.

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