Automation vs. Augmentation: Socially Assistive Robotics and the Future of Work
Maja Matarić - Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Robotics is booming all around us. A field that was originally driven by the desire to automate physical work is now raising concerns about the future of work. Less discussed but no more important are the implications on human health, as the science on longevity and resilience indicates that having the drive to work is key for health and wellness. However, robots, machines that were originally invented to automate work, are also becoming helpful by not doing any physical work at all, but instead by motivating and coaching us to do our own work, based on evidence from neuroscience and behavioral science demonstrating that human behavior is most strongly influenced by physically embodied social agents, including robots.The field of socially assistive robotics (SAR) focuses on developing intelligent socially interactive machine that that provide assistance through social rather than physical means. The robot’s physical embodiment is at the heart of SAR’s effectiveness, as it leverages the inherently human tendency to engage with lifelike (but not necessarily human-like or otherwise biomimetic) agents. People readily ascribe intention, personality, and emotion to robots; SAR leverages this engagement to develop robots capable of monitoring, motivating, and sustaining user activities and improving human learning, training, performance and health outcomes. Human-robot interaction (HRI) for SAR is a growing multifaceted research field at the intersection of engineering, health sciences, neuroscience, social, and cognitive sciences, with rapidly growing commercial spinouts. This talk will describe research into embodiment, modeling and steering social dynamics, and long-term adaptation and learning for SAR, grounded in projects involving multi-modal activity data, modeling personality and engagement, formalizing social use of space and non-verbal communication, and personalizing the interaction with the user over a period of months, among others. SAR systems have been validated with a variety of user populations, including stroke patients, children with autism spectrum disorders, elderly with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; this talk will cover the short, middle, and long-term commercial applications of SAR, as well as the frontiers of SAR research.
Biography: Maja Matarić is Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, founding director of the USC Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center, and Vice Dean for Research in the Viterbi School of Engineering. She received her MS and PhD from MIT in Computer Science and AI, and her BS in Computer Science from the University of Kansas. She is Fellow of AAAS, IEEE, and AAAI, and the recipient of the US Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award in Innovation, the Okawa Foundation Award, NSF Career Award, MIT TR35 Award, and IEEE RAS Early Career Award. A pioneer of distributed robotics and, more recently, socially assistive robotics, Prof. Matarić’s research enables robots to help people through social interaction in therapy, rehabilitation, training, and education, developing robot-assisted therapies for autism, stroke, Alzheimer's and other special needs, as well as wellness interventions (http://robotics.usc.edu/interaction/). She has published extensively, authored the popular robotics textbook “The Robotic Primer” (MIT Press), has served as associate editor on three journals, and on the NSF CISE Advisory Committee and other advisory boards. Prof. Matarić’ is actively involved in K-12 STEM outreach, having obtained federal and industry grants to develop free teacher training and open-source curricular materials for in-school and after-school robotics courses that engage student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics and careers. She is also founder and CSO of Embodied, Inc. (www.embodied.me).