Workshop On Personal Robots for Exercising

Personal Robots for Exercising and Coaching

Workshop in conjunction with HRI Conference 2018, Chicago, IL, USA

About the Workshop

Exercise training is strongly recommended for prevention and treatment of pathologies with high prevalence such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statest that insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. 25% of the adult population and 80% of the world's adolescent population are insufficiently physically active. The decrease of physical activity in our society is not just an individual problem but it is influenced by a variety of environmental and social factors. Hence, it is important to target this problem from multi-perspective and interdisciplinary point of view. This full-day workshop will offer a forum for researchers from a variety of backgrounds (i.e. physiotherapist, psychologist, computer scientist, clinical researchers, industry) to discuss the potentials and limitations of using social robots to promote physical activity and support people to be more active. Looking across disciplinary boundaries we hope to establish a common understanding of the needs for potential target groups. We invite participants to share their experiences on the requirements and challenges implementing and deploying robot coaches that could motivate people to start and adhere to a physical activity program.

Table Setting

There are four major questions we want to target with this workshop: a) What are the perceptional, interactional and design requirements for coaching robots? b) What (motivational) benefits can social robots offer compared to active video games or virtual agents? c) What requirements do social robots need to fulfill to be used as tools in therapy or to deploy them as consumer products? d) What are the potential use cases and markets for robots that promote physical activity?

We will try to group the invited speeches and contributed talks around these question and plan sufficient time for interactive discussions. The goal of this workshop is to collect the state of the art on social robots coaching and promoting physical activity. Furthermore, we want to collect the current challenges and requirements for such robots to be implemented as a therapeutic tool or daily exercising companion. Concluding, we want to draw a road map leading to the next steps that should be addresses by researchers and engineers for building robot companions to help people stay healthy and active.

Invited Speakers

Karola received her PhD in Linguistics from Bielefeld University, Germany (2006) working on the topic of multimodal aspects of student-teacher interaction in immersive classrooms (supervised by Prof. E. Gülich & Prof. U. Dausendschön-Gay). Her PhD has been honored with the Dissertation Award of the Westfälisch-Lippische Universitätsgesellschaft. She has since held positions as postdoctoral researcher in EU-projects with the ‘Work, Interaction & Technology’ research centre at King’s College London, UK (2005 – 2008, Prof. C. Heath), as well as with the Applied Informatics group and the CoR-Lab at Bielefeld University (2008 – 2011, Prof. G. Sagerer). Since 2012, she is a Dilthey Fellow funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, and has headed the research group “Interactional Linguistics & Human-Robot-Interaction” at the Center of Excellence "Cognitive Interaction Technology" (CITEC, Bielefeld). In 2014, Karola has been appointed as professor in the Institute of Communication Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen and continues to be an associated member at CITEC. Karola Pitsch has been Principal Investigator of several third-party funded projects, such as with the BMBF, within the CRC 673 ’Alignment in Communication’ (DFG) and the Centre of Excellence ‘Cognitive Interaction Technology’. From 2012 to 2016, she has been a fellow in the ZiF Network of Young Scholars. In 2016, she was involved in the planning committee of the “Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Integration and Migration” (InZentIM) and serves currently as a member of its board of directors. Karola Pitsch has undertaken extended research stays at UCLA (USA, supervisor: Ch. Goodwin), the universities of Tsukuba and Saitama (Japan), at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (France), and at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina). Abstract
Tony Belpaeme is Professor of Cognitive Systems and Robotics at Plymouth University. He is associated with the Cognition Institute and the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems. He is a member of the College of the EPSRC. His research interests include social systems, cognitive robotics, and artificial intelligence in general. Until April 2005 he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Flemish fund for scientific research (FWO Vlaanderen), and was affiliated with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, directed by Luc Steels, at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He held a guest professorship at the same university, where he taught introductory artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. Starting from the premise that intelligence is rooted in social interaction, Tony and team try to further the science and technology behind artificial intelligence and social robots. This results in a spectrum of results, from theoretical insights to practical applications. The theoretical insights, in which he argues that interaction is central to natural and artificial cognition and that robots and machines should be sensitive to language and paralinguistic social mechanisms used by people, has drawn considerable academic attention. He complements his work by applying these insights in the design and implementation of robots and robotic applications. Recently this work has led to a spin-off company (Syntheligence) and to the uptake of this research in clinical practice, in which robots are used to complement the support and education of hospitalised children. His research is regularly used as a showcase of funding success by various funding agencies, most recently the Research Councils UK, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the European Commission. The combination of both theoretical cognitive systems research applied to topics with societal relevance has gained him an international reputation. His research has been exhibited at the Natural History Museum London, the Wellcome Trust, the London Science Museum, and the National Space Centre. He has featured in IEEE Spectrum, the Communications of the ACM, and Scientific American. In 2012 his work was named as one of “ten life-changing ideas under research at UK universities” by Research Councils UK, and in 2014 his work was lauded as one of “20 new ideas from the UK that will change the world“. Abstract

Call and Submission

Call for Papers

We seek contributions (i.e. research paper, position paper, system paper, design papers) concerning, but not restricted to, the following topics:

  • Applications of social robots used for promoting physical activity or rehabilitation
  • Activity recognition systems for physical activity or coaching applications
  • Role of embodiment of execising partner/instructor
  • Effectiveness of active video games/exergames compared with personals robots
  • System architectures for (robotic) coaching systems
  • Motivational and persuasive models for personal robots
  • AI methods for exercising and coaching companions
  • Preference learning and user adaptation for physical activity assistance
  • Psychological aspects of working out with robot companions
  • Studies with focus groups (i.e. elderly, children, adolescents, people with physical/cognitive impairments or cardiovascular diseases)
  • Ethical consideration of implementing assistive/persuasive robot companions
  • Potentials and limitations of using robots to promote physical activity
  • Studies on the potential markets for exercising companions
  • Medical and health related issues of physical inactivity
  • Clinical view on deploying robotic sport companions
  • Hardware designs and design requirements for personal coaching robots


Papers can be submitted via the following submission site. Please submit your paper in PDF format by the 7th of January 2018. The accepted contributions will be published as online publication with the CEUR Workshop Proceedings.

Submission guidelines

The paper format conforms roughly to an HRI submission:
The allowed length is between 4 and 6 pages (including the references) depending on the contribution of the work (position papers, previous/ongoing work or novel work). Accepted papers will be presented as a talk of about 15 minutes with 5 minutes of discussion or during a poster session. Submitted papers should conform to the ACM publication format. ACM Categories and Subject Descriptors section and Author Keywords are mandatory to be included on the first page for your final version. The results described in the submission must not be under consideration for publication elsewhere. For templates and examples follow this link:


Submissions within the scope of the workshop will be peer-reviewed and selected based on their relevance, originality, clarity and contribution. Selected papers will require that one author registers for and attends the workshop. As opposed to the HRI 2018 main conference, there will be no rebuttal phase.


Talks length should be approximately 15 minutes so that there are 5 minutes time for discussion

Preliminary schedule

Time Authors Title
09:00 tba Welcome and Introduction
09:15 tba Key note I
10:00 tba contributed paper
10:20 tba contributed paper
10:40 Coffee Break Cafe au lait
11:00 tba Key note II
11:45 tba contributed paper III
12:05 Discussion
12:30 Lunch Break Yummi!
13:30 tba Contributed paper IV
13:50 tba Contributed paper V
14:10 tba Key Note III
14:55 Paper, Video Session and Discussion?
15:30 Coffee Break and Poster Session
16:00 Group Discussion and Plenary Round Table
17:30 Wrap Up
17:45 End


Sascha Griffiths

University of Hamburg

Stefan Wermter

University of Hamburg

Sebastian Schneider

Bielefed University

Britta Wrede

Bielefeld University

Carlos A. Cifuentes G.


Media and Material

Important Dates

January 18, 2018

Paper submission deadline

February 7, 2018

Notification of acceptance

February 17, 2018

Camera ready submission

March 5, 2018

Workshop day


HRI 2018 website

submission site


For any question about the organisation of the Workshop, please contact us by mail.