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Riek Receives NSF Grant to Study Robot Perception of Context

Virginia Watterson • DATE: August 25, 2015

Professor Laurel Riek has received a three-year NSF grant for $500,000 from the National Science Foundation for the project “Modeling Social Context to Improve Human-Robot Interaction”. This is a collaborative project with Dr. Ross Knepper (co-PI, Cornell University). 

Perception is a core technology in building advanced robotic systems. However, current approaches are content-based, and only successful within known, static environments. This is not suitable for robots operating in human environments, which are dynamic, noisy, and always in flux. For robots to be truly useful, it is critical they are able to understand and operate independently in human spaces. Decades of research into this problem by many investigators have to date failed to yield a solution. A fundamental paradigm shift is necessary to enable progress, and this shift can be ignited through a contextually driven approach to mobile robotics. Thus, the goal of this project is to create and evaluate new models of social context in order to enable robots to act appropriately with people in HSEs. 

Project outcomes will help give all "things that think", from social robots to smart homes, a better understanding of human social context and a greater capability to operate effectively in real-world human spaces. By contributing new theoretical models, techniques, and open source implementations that will accelerate the development and adoption of machines that operate in HSEs, the PIs anticipate this work will have a transformative impact on many fields within computer science, including robotics, human-machine interaction, and ubiquitous computing.