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Selma Šabanović, Ph.D.: Human-Centered Robotics: A Sociotechnical Approach to Robot Design & Evaluation


Abstract: As the focus of robot design shifts to applications in everyday human environments populated by non-expert users, including schools, hospitals, homes, museums, and other public and private spaces, robotics researchers have to contend not only with novel technical challenges, but with social challenges relating to the social perceptions and consequences of human-robot interaction. One particular challenge is finding ways to develop robotics applications that are more attuned to everyday users and take their needs, values, and ideas into account. This talk will discuss a human-centered agenda for developing robots for everyday use, focusing on the evaluation and design of robots from the perspective of the social and humanistic sciences, calling for an increased awareness of the variety of human values and practices involved in robot design, and including relevant stakeholders early on in the robot design process.

Starting from a broader socio-cultural perspective, I will discuss the conceptions of social organizations, relationships, and cognition that robotics researchers are construct as part of the emerging “robotics cultures” (Turkle) in Japan and the US. I will further describe how particular cultural models relating to the display, perception, and experience of sociality and technology are reflected in robot design. After analyzing the perspective of robotics researchers, we will examine ways to incorporate user perspectives in the early stages of robot design through in situ prototyping and testing, and experimental studies designed to address potential social issues in human-robot interaction. I will show how social sciences theories and studies of situated practice can assist in robot design which complements human capabilities and is reflexive about its effects on the structure of social organizations and relationships.


Selma Šabanović is an Assistant Professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research focuses on the intersection of human-robot interaction, social robot design, and the study of social influences on and consequences of robotic technologies.  She uses social science theories and empirical studies of human interaction, including field studies, to develop design guidelines for socially interactive and assistive robots.  She has published on human-robot interaction, the effect of cultural models on robot design in the US and Japan, and interdisciplinary methodologies for bridging social and technical perspectives on robot design. She focuses particularly on understanding user perceptions of robots and developing situated and user-centered robot designs. She has worked with numerous socially interactive and assistive platforms and with elderly, children, and adult users.