Thursday, December 17, 2015

New Frontiers of HRI Symposium CfP

For the second year running, I'm involved in the organisation of the 5th Symposium on New Frontiers in Human-Robot Interaction, which will be held as part of the AISB convention on the 5th and 6th of April 2016, in Sheffield (U.K.). It's a very nice little event that has a strong emphasis on discussion, and so a very nice venue for meeting people, exchanging thoughts, and getting new ideas to inform your research.

So come and join us there!

All details are on the symposium submission page, but in the meantime, feel free to contact me or one of the other oganisers (Maha Salem, Astrid Weiss, and Kerstin Dautenhahn). Oh, and the submission deadline for papers is Monday the 11th of January, so get writing!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Recent Social Robotics Conferences

In the past couple of weeks, I've been fortunate enough to attend a couple of conferences concerned with social robotics - one of the main foci of my research work. Attending conferences is always an enlightening experience for a range of reasons - catching up with familiar faces, meeting new ones, and getting new insights and perspectives on various aspects of my work.

The first of these was a new conference, called New Friends. It is generally focused on social (though not always) robots for therapy and education applications, though the majority of work seemed to be more related to therapy, with quite a number of practitioners present, in addition to the more robotics-oriented researchers and organisations. As the first iteration, it was relatively small, though I am intrigued to see how it develops: for now, the second edition has been arranged to take place in Barcelona next year. I presented a short paper on some ongoing work I'm conducting on the potential use of touchscreens to characterise behaviour of children with ASD as they interact with a robot. If you're interested, you can find the paper here (paper number 27 in the oral sessions section). The abstract is as follows:
Robots are finding increasing application in the domain of ASD therapy as they provide a number of advantageous properties such as replicability and controllable expressivity. In this abstract we introduce a role for touchscreens that act as mediating devices in therapeutic robot-child interactions. Informed by extensive work with neurotypical children in educational contexts, an initial study using a touchscreen mediator in support of robot assisted ASD therapy was conducted to examine the feasibility of this approach, in so doing demonstrating how this application provides a number of technical and potentially therapeutic advantages.
The second conference was the International Conference on Social Robotics, a far more established conference, this time in its seventh iteration. Bigger, but not by much, this conference does cover a wide range of topics and approaches, with nominally social robots being the common factor. Both the PhD students I co-supervise presented papers (which can be found here and here), which was great, and which seemed to be received well. I myself presented at the WONDER workshop some random thoughts squished into the semblance of a coherent argument about the wider implications of robots in classrooms. The paper can be found here, with the following abstract:
Robots are being increasingly used in schools by researchers keen to assess how they may be used to facilitate learning and provide support. Based on 15 school experiment visits at 9 different schools in the U.K., we outline our observations, specifically focusing on the broader implications of robots in the classroom primarily from the perspective of the teacher. We then outline the basis for future research considerations in HRI, centred around the three themes of pedagogy, methodology, and ethics. For further application of robotics to education, we suggest that these three themes need to form a central part of continuing research.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Social HRI Summer School: talk on experimental challenges

I'm in Aland, Finland, at the moment taking part in the 2nd Summer School on Social Human-Robot Interaction (the first one took place in Cambridge in 2013). We're at the end of the first day, and what a fascinating first day it has been. Great talks from Tony Belpaeme, David Vernon and Yiannis Demiris. Between these I played support-act, and filled a slot in the programme with some background and observations on performing HRI experiments. The title/abstract of my talk:

"Experimental HRI: a wander through the challenges"
Running HRI experiments is difficult. Running HRI experiments outside of the lab, in the real world, can introduce even more difficulties. Having to deal with real people's quirks and foibles just adds to the challenges! However, there is so much of interest in doing just that: the development of better social robots, and to support the creation of robotic assistants and tools that can help people in their daily lives.
In this talk, an overview will be given of some of the constraints and trade-offs that may be encountered when implementing and running HRI experiments, but also of the opportunities that arise, and effects that can be taken advantage of. Examples from Child-Robot Interaction studies will serve to highlight these, including robots to help children learn, and running experiments in schools and hospitals.
Some of these issues may already be familiar or be intuitive, and will certainly be non-exhaustive, but the intention is to outline the basis of a toolkit of experimental HRI considerations that can be thrown at any attempts to release experiments into 'the wild'.