Creating Robots That Care

2017 Karen Spärck Jones Lecture

Date: Thursday 25 May 2017

Time: 6.00pm

Location: Teaching Room 2, Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull, HU6 7RX

Free to both BCS and non-BCS members.

Professor Maja Matarić, University of Southern California

A live stream and discussion from the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT HQ will take place at the University of Hull, Teaching Room 2, Brynmor Jones Library from 6.00 pm until 7.30 pm.

To honour the pioneering work of Karen Spärck Jones, the BCS holds a distinguished lecture in her name each year, celebrating a prominent female computing researcher. Professor Matarić is the Professor and Chan Soon-Shiong Chair of Computer Science, Neuroscience and Paediatrics; Founding Director at the USC's Robotics and Autonomous Systems Centre; and Director of the USC's Robotics Research Lab.


How can human-robot interaction be improved by making robots more socially intelligent? This is the key question at the heart of socially assistive robotics (SAR): a new field of intelligent robotics that focuses on developing machines capable of assisting users through social rather than physical interaction, in order to encourage people to have the drive and motivation to do their own work, for improved health and wellness. Our research brings together engineering, health sciences, neuroscience, social, developmental, and cognitive sciences to create robots that can serve as coaches, motivators, and companions. This requires personalising human-robot interaction through appropriate speech, gesture, and body language; the embodiment is the most important even without physical work. Our successes include coaching stroke patients to perform rehabilitation activities, helping children with autism to learn social skills, encouraging teens at risk for type-2 diabetes to exercise, motivating first graders to make healthy food choices, and helping elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease to stay engaged.

This talk will describe those projects and the associated research into embodiment, modelling and steering of social dynamics, and long-term user adaptation for SAR, illustrated with many videos.

About the Speaker

Professor Maja Matarić is inspired by the vast potential for affordable human-centred technologies, especially socially assistive robotics, as means of improving human quality of life. Founder and director of the Interaction Lab at the University of Southern California, her research is aimed at endowing robots with the ability to help people, especially those with special needs. She is passionate about conveying the importance and promise of interdisciplinary engineering research and careers in STEM to all who should know more, including K-12 students and teachers, women and other under-represented groups in engineering, the media, and policy makers.

More information on the Karen Spärck Jones lecture