S. Şabanoviç; "Social Robotics: Debates and Challenges"
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  • S. Şabanoviç; "Social Robotics: Debates and Challenges"

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 Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences





Social robotics: Debates and challenges



Selma Şabanoviç



The popular press, academic publications, and governmental reports claim that robots will be commonplace in hospitals, offices, shopping centers, and even private homes within the next decade.  These robots are expected to fill new roles as social actors—care takers, companions, guides, teachers, assistants, team-mates, and mediators between ourselves and the complex technological systems we inhabit.


Social robots pose novel problems in design and evaluation. The real challenge in designing a social robot that can interact with people in their everyday environment does not lie in its capacity to solve logical problems or even real-world navigation, although much work remains to be done on these research fronts. Rather, making robots social depends on designing devices with affordances that fit into an ongoing flow of human or human-like coordination.  In order to achieve this, social robotics researchers have to grapple with social as well as technical issues, including simulating interaction, achieving social as well as technical robustness, evaluating human-robot interaction in its social context, and dealing with the social and ethical impacts of robots as part of the design process.


This talk will give an overview of design challenges in social robotics and two interdisciplinary methods for tackling them. The first, “outside-in design,” involves grounding the design process in observation and existing empirical research for understanding the nuances of human interaction that can be applied to robots.  Socially interactive robots, in turn, are used as test-beds for models of interactivity and the attribution of human characteristics to non-humans. The second, collaborative design, involves not only social and technical experts, but also users and other relevant stakeholders as participants in design, rather than just subjects of study and evaluation.


Selma is an Assistant Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University. Her research explores how social robotic technologies are designed and perceived in different cultural contexts and how human-robot interaction research can be used to develop and evaluate models of social cognition. She has published on interactional synchrony and non-verbal cues in human-robot interaction, the influence of culture on the design of robots in the US and Japan, and interdisciplinary research methods in social robotics. Selma is a founding member of R-House, a robotics lab developing robotics for domestic use and studying human-robot coordination and social interaction.



In 2008/2009, Selma was a lecturer in Stanford University's Program in Science, Technology and Society. She has been a visiting scholar at the Ubiquitous Functions Research Group's PARO lab at the Intelligent Systems Institute in AIST, Tsukuba, Japan and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Selma received her PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007.



December 30, 13:40, FENS L058