Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 123-137

First online:

The Intervention of Robot Caregivers and the Cultivation of Children’s Capability to Play

  • Yvette PearsonAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, Old Dominion University
  • , Jason BorensteinAffiliated withGraduate Research Ethics Programs, Georgia Tech School of Public Policy Email author 

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In this article, the authors examine whether and how robot caregivers can contribute to the welfare of children with various cognitive and physical impairments by expanding recreational opportunities for these children. The capabilities approach is used as a basis for informing the relevant discussion. Though important in its own right, having the opportunity to play is essential to the development of other capabilities central to human flourishing. Drawing from empirical studies, the authors show that the use of various types of robots has already helped some children with impairments. Recognizing the potential ethical pitfalls of robot caregiver intervention, however, the authors examine these concerns and conclude that an appropriately designed robot caregiver has the potential to contribute positively to the development of the capability to play while also enhancing the ability of human caregivers to understand and interact with care recipients.


Robot ethics Robot caregivers The capability to play Disability Capabilities approach