Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A new start in Lincoln

The past few months have been busy - I attended the Human-Robot Interaction conference in Christchurch (New Zealand), and then I packed up and left Plymouth, after six (near enough) very happy and relatively productive years with Tony Belpaeme's HRI group.

Now, I have joined the University of Lincoln (U.K.) as a lecturer (I'm not sure, but it's supposedly similar to a US/rest of the world Assistant Prof, but permanent rather than tenure-track...) in the School of Computer Science. I'm also a member of the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems, which is a relatively large research group covering a range of (you guessed it) autonomous robotic systems, human-robot interaction/collaboration, and bio-inspired machine vision. It's an exciting place to join - the School and the research group are expanding rapidly both in terms of student numbers and research projects/income, and we're due to move into a new purpose-built building over the next year (I'm moving in the next few weeks...).

So, what are my plans for the future? Broadly speaking, to research and teach, or to teach and research, whichever way you choose to look at it. In terms of research, I intend to continue my general line of research involving the combination of cognitive/developmental robotics and social human-robot interaction. It's going to a little while before I get the things in my head up and running in the real world, but hopefully not too long.

An exciting, and yet fairly daunting time for me - learning a new place, new colleagues, new procedures. However, I'm looking forward to it! Apparently this is my 200th post on this blog. Apt perhaps that this is a new start.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2nd Workshop on Cognitive Architectures for Social Human-Robot Interaction

In a follow-up to the first iteration of the workshop, I'm organising the next version of the workshop on Cognitive Architectures for Social HRI (with Greg Trafton and Severin Lemaignan). It will take place immediately before the International conference on Human-Robot Interaction, in Christchurch (New Zealand), on Monday the 7th of March 2016.

You can find all the necessary details on the workshop website.

The focus this time will specifically be on how social interaction (between robots and humans in particular, but not necessarily exclusively) can be supported by cognitive architectures - and what functions and mechanisms are required for this. To this end, we asking that all authors answer a set of six specific questions in their submissions, to provide a basis for comparison, and to initiate discussions as the workshop.

I hope to see you there!

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.