This Research Manifesto conveys the interdisciplinary landscapes of my work bridging Robotics, Psychology, and Design Research.
Robots as intervention tools
Social robots provide a unique variety of interaction possibilities as they share the same physical space with humans. I argue that one of the most relevant use-cases for these interactive robots occurs when they serve as intervention tools, i.e., when their interaction possibilities are used for human empowerment. I envision that robots can serve as tools to transform human experiences without replacing human-human interactions. It thus becomes crucial to understand, in which contexts, to what populations, and given which interaction modalities, robots should serve. Towards this goal, I design, develop, and evaluate robots under pre-defined contexts of need, to understand their impact and effectiveness in nurturing and empowering intrinsic human qualities.
Human-empowering artificial intelligence
While we thrive to incorporate human input into algorithm design, the process of transforming this input into parameterizable robot architectures is not obvious. My goal is to understand how to transform human input and feedback into usable information for the design process of algorithms. In nature, I envision the need for the algorithms to be temporary as they account for changes in the user and in the environment. Towards this goal, I study which methodologies are the best to elicit human input; as well as I investigate which types of tests and evaluations are representative of experiences with the designed algorithms, to be able to pinpoint improvements in their design.
Design and fabrication of abstract robots
A wide spectrum of robot’s appearances exist, varying from highly-humanoid to object-like robots. In my research, I view abstract robots as potential platforms for pleasant interactions. I define abstract robots as robots whose affordances are clear to the human; therefore, the properties of the robot show the possible actions users can take with it, thereby suggesting how they might interact with the robot. I believe that the abstract nuance of a robot’s appearance sets realistic and non-disappointing expectations towards the interaction, while evoking just the right amount of a relatedness towards the robot. The challenge here consists in investigating the potentials and the limits around abstract design; specifically, how to create interaction moments that account for abstraction while still provoking engagement and meaning.