Marcel Heerink had an early career in psycholinguistics, copywriting, and language training before he started research on social robots. He obtained his PhD at the University of Amsterdam on a study of acceptance of social robots by older adults and later set up a research group on social robots at Windesheim University in the Dutch city of Almere. His research focuses on groups with special needs, like people with dementia, long-term hospitalized children, and children with different forms of autism.
His interests include not only the psychological and social aspects of human-robot interaction, but also philosophical considerations and emerging ethical issues. His work includes, besides academic publications, popular books and articles, mostly in Dutch but increasingly in English.
He initiated and co-organized a series of international conferences on this and the New Friends multidisciplinary conference association on social robots in therapy and education.