Helen Billam

On Wednesday 3 November 2021 the ECLAS team held an event for bishops and policy advisors at Lambeth Palace, focusing on AI and Ethics.

Among the attendees at the event were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Roman Catholic and Church of England bishops, senior Methodist leaders, and policy advisors from the Church of England.

ECLAS Co-Director Revd Prof David Wilkinson joined using a telepresence robot from the comfort of his office in Durham. Revd Prof Wilkinson was able to approach delegates and take part in conversations, manoeuvring around the room using controls on his laptop on the other side of the country.

He told delegates: “The ability to interact in three dimensions and have autonomous movement, so that I’m controlling where I look, how I move, who I focus on, is such a difference to the two-dimensional Zoom experience. The ability to sense a space and to move in a space is, for me, a much more incarnational way of interacting.”


Topics under discussion included the future of work in a world of automation, AI and racial bias, and responsible regulation.

The telepresence robot operated by the Principal was provided as part of a session on Assistive Robotics by Robotics for Good, a Community Interest Company co-founded by Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly, who is also Professor of Embodied Intelligence at the University of Nottingham.

Prof Caleb-Solly said: “Telepresence robotics technologies offer the ability for people to participate in a way where their virtual physical presence enables social interaction that feels more natural and immersive.

“As we extend the use of these technologies to augment health and social care provision, for example providing on-request 24-7 support for people who want to continue to live in their own homes, or enabling those who are shielding to visit museums or attend social events, we are also keen to explore the wider issues that must be considered to ensure equitable and ethical use. The ECLAS event provided a fitting forum to surface and reflect on these challenges and opportunities.”

*Please note: This video was taken at a private ECLAS event for Church leaders and is used here with the express permission of Prof Praminda Caleb-Solly and Revd Prof David Wilkinson.

Article By Helen Billam


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