Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and automation have the potential to transform cities and urban social life. However, robotic restructuring of the city is complicated and contested. Technology is still evolving, robotic infrastructure is expensive and there are technical, trust and safety challenges in bringing robots into dynamic urban environments alongside humans. This article examines the nascent field of ‘urban robotics’ in three emblematic yet diverse national-urban contexts that are leading centres for urban robotic experimentation. Focusing on the experimental application of autonomous social robots, the article explores: (i) the rationale for urban robotic experiments and the interests involved, and (ii) the challenges and outcomes of creating meaningful urban spaces for robotic experimentation. The article makes a distinctive contribution to urban research by illuminating a potentially far-reaching but under-researched area of urban policy. It provides a conceptual framework for mapping and understanding the highly contingent, spatially uneven and socially selective processes of robotic urban experimentation.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Social Sciences(all)