Schlagworte: Animal-friendly machines

Save the Hedgehogs!

Between June 2019 and January 2020, the sixth artifact of machine ethics will be created at the FHNW School of Business. Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel is the initiator, the client and – together with a colleague – the supervisor of the project. Animal-machine interaction is about the design, evaluation and implementation of (usually more sophisticated or complex) machines and computer systems with which animals interact and communicate and which interact and communicate with animals. Machine ethics has so far mainly referred to humans, but can also be useful for animals. It attempts to conceive moral machines and to implement them with the help of further disciplines such as computer science and AI or robotics. The aim of the project is the detailed description and prototypical implementation of an animal-friendly service robot, more precisely a mowing robot called HAPPY HEDGEHOG (HHH). With the help of sensors and moral rules, the robot should be able to recognize hedgehogs (especially young animals) and initiate appropriate measures (interruption of work, expulsion of the hedgehog, information of the owner). The project has similarities with another project carried out earlier, namely LADYBIRD. This time, however, more emphasis will be placed on existing equipment, platforms and software. The first artifact at the university was the GOODBOT – in 2013.

Fig.: A happy hedgehog


An der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW entsteht zwischen Juni 2019 und Januar 2020 das sechste Artefakt der Maschinenethik. Ideengeber und Auftraggeber ist Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel. In der Tier-Maschine-Interaktion geht es um Design, Evaluierung und Implementierung von (in der Regel höherentwickelten bzw. komplexeren) Maschinen und Computersystemen, mit denen Tiere interagieren und kommunizieren und die mit Tieren interagieren und kommunizieren. Die Maschinenethik bezieht sich bisher vor allem auf Menschen, kann aber auch bei Tieren dienlich sein. Sie versucht moralische Maschinen zu konzipieren und mit Hilfe weiterer Disziplinen wie Informatik und KI bzw. Robotik zu implementieren. Ziel des Projekts ist die detaillierte Beschreibung und prototypische Umsetzung eines tierfreundlichen Serviceroboters, genauer gesagt eines Mähroboters, genannt HAPPY HEDGEHOG (HHH). Dieser soll mit Hilfe von Sensoren und moralischen Regeln vor allem Igel (auch und insbesondere Jungtiere) erkennen und geeignete Maßnahmen einleiten (Unterbruch der Arbeit, Vertreiben des Igels, Information des Besitzers). Das Projekt hat Ähnlichkeiten mit einem anderen Projekt, das früher durchgeführt wurde, nämlich LADYBIRD. Dieses Mal soll aber mehr auf vorhandene Geräte, Plattformen und Software gesetzt werden. Als erstes Artefakt entstand an der Hochschule der GOODBOT – im Jahre 2013.

Smart Machines and Save Animals

„With a few decades, autonomous and semi-autonomous machines will be found throughout Earth’s environments, from homes and gardens to parks and farms and so-called working landscapes – everywhere, really, that humans are found, and perhaps even places we’re not. And while much attention is given to how those machines will interact with people, far less is paid to their impacts on animals.“ (Anthropocene, October 10, 2018) „Machines can disturb, frighten, injure, and kill animals,“ says Oliver Bendel, an information systems professor at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, according to the magazine. „Animal-friendly machines are needed.“ (Anthropocene, October 10, 2018) In the article „Will smart machines be kind to animals?“ the magazine Anthropocene deals with animal-friendly machines and introduces the work of the scientist. It is based on his paper „Towards animal-friendly machines“ (Paladyn) and an interview conducted by journalist Brandon Keim with Oliver Bendel. More via

Fig.: Also a cat can be safe, even on the street

Considerations about Animal-friendly Machines

Semi-autonomous machines, autonomous machines and robots inhabit closed, semi-closed and open environments. There they encounter domestic animals, farm animals, working animals and/or wild animals. These animals could be disturbed, displaced, injured or killed. Within the context of machine ethics, the School of Business FHNW developed several design studies and prototypes for animal-friendly machines, which can be understood as moral machines in the spirit of this discipline. They were each linked with an annotated decision tree containing the ethical assumptions or justifications for interactions with animals. Annotated decision trees are seen as an important basis in developing moral machines. They are not without problems and contradictions, but they do guarantee well-founded, secure actions that are repeated at a certain level. The article „Towards animal-friendly machines“ by Oliver Bendel, published in August 2018 in Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics, documents completed and current projects, compares their relative risks and benefits, and makes proposals for future developments in machine ethics.

Fig.: An animal-friendly vehicle?