Ethics Challenge

Imagine you run an interdisciplinary consulting company consisting of designers, philosophers, engineers, psychologists, and roboticists, that specialize in ethical decision making policies for robots. You have been hired by a client who is developing the future of consumer-ready home robots. One of the robot’s primary functions is the ability to pick up and bring objects from one place to another upon request. Here are some examples of some modern robots that can currently do this:

Spot Robot with arm from Boston Dynamics

Husky Robot with arms from Clearpath Robotics

Reem-C robot from PAL robotics

Fetch from Fetch Robotics

TRI-robot (ceiling mount) from Toyota

Droria from Prodrone

The client will create a new robot with similar capabilities. Your task is to develop a policy that could be applied to any of these robots without knowing the specific form in advance.

However, given the possible ethical implications of following through with all fetch requests by all people who might be in a home (e.g., visitors, children, etc.), the client hired you to propose a decision policy for their team to implement to determine which requests the robot should execute and why (or why not). Note: Your client is specifically interested in the ethical design of the robot’s response to the fetch request, not how the robot might technically achieve the task.

For example, you might define categories of objects (e.g., based on ownership, safety, health, age, shared/household items, etc.) and then provide guidelines on how the different categories and the relationship between the objects in each category to those requesting/receiving the object should be considered in the robot’s response to the request and resulting behaviour.

Assume that the robot will be capable of picking up a predefined set of objects from any location (or from any person) in the home and is able to receive explicit fetch commands from anyone in the home (e.g., using an app on their phone, an interface built into the wall, etc.). Assume the robot is also able to verbally communicate with people nearby and send messages to any remote interfaces used to make a given request.


The teams participating in the Ethics Challenge will submit the following Two deliverables:

A short project report describing key design decisions and considerations.

A short video presentation to highlight the team and its designs to the public and the judges.

*No programming is necessary at this stage, but your proposed algorithm must be presented in a clear and explicit manner understandable by a developer.

Each team will submit their deliverables to the competition organizers by May 16th, 2022 (23:59, AoE).

A brief note on the Roboethics Hackathon

All teams are required to create the proposal and video, however, teams are not required to participate in the Roboethics Hackathon. During the Roboethics Hackathon, any participant from the competition, regardless of team, as well as members of the ICRA community can voluntarily participate to implement any of the proposed ethical robotic solution.

Project Report Deliverable Details

In order for the judges to better understand the design and strategic decisions that went into the final version of the robot, the teams are requested to submit a short written project report. Judges will review the reports and the video presentation submitted by the team.

  • Teams are required to include a written project description (2~4 pages).

  • Teams are responsible for the formatting and appearance of their Project Reports. Figures and tables must be in digital format. We recommend that teams use image files with a minimum dpi of 150.

  • Papers should be single-spaced and single-column. Please use fonts common to Macintosh and PC platforms, i.e., Times, Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial for text; Symbol for mathematical symbols and Greek letters.

  • Font size should be either 11 or 12 pt.

  • The paper should consist of the following sections:

Cover Page

  • Title/Name of prototype

  • University/Company name/Affiliation of team members

  • Full names of all team members and their respective major of study and academic level (undergraduate or graduate etc)

  • Faculty/Industry advisor’s full name(s) if applicable

Executive Summary

[Exploration of the problem space]

  • Brief description of the ethical salient context targeted in the competition

  • Description of each of the ethical issues your team identified

  • (description of any additional details, e.g. About stakeholders or other aspects of the scenario, that would help the judges understand the nature of the ethical issues you have identified.)

  • Description of the ethical considerations that went into designing a solution for those ethical issues (this is the ethical analysis)

  • Descriptions of the solutions for those ethical issues

  • The rationale for adopting the proposed solution to solve the ethical issue

  • Descriptions of potential benefit or reduced harm done in the context by applying the solution


Participating teams are encouraged to provide information about the design decisions/process to highlight how human values and ethical considerations were incorporated into their proposed solution. Feel free to provide visual (i.e., diagrams, drawings),written descriptions, and justifications behind your design or implementation decisions. Below are suggested topics for the body of the report to explain your team’s solutions and its potential impact:

  • An analysis of the ethical situation: this includes exploring various dimensions and/or implications of the situation, how others may be affected by it, an identification of the main challenge the situation poses, and the various (not necessarily computational) approaches that can be taken to address it.

  • A high level description of your solution.

  • A computational description of your solution.

    • This can be achieved through pseudocode, a flowchart diagram, storyboard, etc.

    • If your team chooses to use machine learning or a “black box” approach, you must specify how training data is intended to be collected, what proposed algorithm to use, the intended inputs/outputs, and what the data should be structured like (i.e. providing example data from a made up dataset).

  • The impact of your proposed solution on the robot’s ethical decisions / behaviors.

  • A critical evaluation of your solution , including challenges/known limitations.

  • A brief discussion on how your solution could be empirically tested.


Appendices should be for references or long form supplemental material only

Video Presentation Deliverable Details

Teams are required to create a short video (5-10 min) on their solution. The video should serve to be a high level summary of your team’s approach, and will be posted publicly on the ICRA 2022 Roboethics Competition website and YouTube.

The video should include:

  • What was the ethical problem you focused on

  • How you proposed to computationally solve the roboethics problem (including a computational description of your solution)

  • Why did you choose to solve the problem the way you did

  • A brief critical analysis of your approach: what are the strengths and weaknesses?

Up to 3 teams’ solutions will be selected to be implemented during the Hackathon (May, 25th, 2022).

Submission Guidelines

The submission deadline is May 16th at 23:59 (AoE). If there are any technical problems with the content of your files (for example, your file was corrupted), we will try to contact you immediately with the team contact information you provide us.

Please email your submission to, with the following items:

1. Project report (a single .PDF file)

2. Video presentation (link- youtube, dropbox, googledrive, etc.)

Upon receiving your email, we will check to make sure that we’ve also received your report and acknowledge it via email the following day.

Evaluation Criteria

Grounding on Research into relevant background information (20%)

  1. Use of relevant background information (e.g., roboethics, applied ethics, machine ethics, ethical theories, or other related fields)

  2. Quality of external research

  3. Consideration of relevant research in the given topic

Understanding and the analysis of the ethical context/ scenario (30%)

  1. The depth of ethical considerations/ analysis (e.g., did the team identify ethical issues that are beyond obvious solutions?)

  2. Identification of uses/ stakeholders involved in the scenario

  3. Identification of all risks and benefits associated with the scenario

Quality and Effectiveness (e.g., practicality, applicability) of the provided ethical robotic solution (30%)

  1. Use of indicators to measure the success of the proposed ethical solution

  2. Ability of the robotic solution to actually solved the posed ethical problem

  3. Acknowledgement of possible challenges and side-effects

  4. Sustainability/durability of the robotic solution

  5. Generalizability/The extent of the issues and solutions relate to the current or near-term deployment

  6. Appropriate use of up to date technological solutions

Innovativeness and Creativeness of the ethical robotic solution (10%)

  1. Innovativeness/creativeness/uniqueness/ novel of the proposed ethical scenario/ solutions

Communication of the proposed ethical robotic solution (10%)

  1. Presentation is delivered in concise, logical, and clear manner

  2. Appropriate use of relevant tables or figures

  3. Overall aesthetics of the deliverables