Karen Spärck Jones Lecture: Creating Robots That Care
  • Room 018, Lecture Theatre, Rolle Building, Plymouth University

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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. This year's lecture will be live streamed from London.

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.

The event will kick off at 17:30 with tea/coffee and scones to provide a networking opportunity before the main lecture starts at 18:00. Please book your ticket at this free talk via the above link.

About the speaker

Dr Maja Matarić is the Professor and Chan Soon-Shiong Chair of Computer Science, Neuroscience & Pediatrics; Founding Director at the USC's Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center; and Director of the USC's Robotics Research Lab.

Dr 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 underrepresented groups in engineering, the media, and policy makers.


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BCS South West events are open to everyone, eligible for CPD and (unless otherwise indicated) free of charge. The pre-booking system is only used to allow rooms and catering to be arranged. Please note that most presentations are video-recorded and we aim to make videos available via our YouTube channel shortly after each event.

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