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RI Seminar: Selma Šabanović
Robots for the social good: Identifying and addressing organizational and societal factors in the design and use of robots

Selma Šabanović
Associate Professor of Informatics & Cognitive Science, Indiana University

April 28, 2017, 3:30-4:30, NSH 1305

Robots are expected to become ubiquitous in the near future, working alongside and with people in everyday environments to provide various societal benefits. In contrast to this broad ranging social vision for robotics applications, evaluations of robots and studies of human-robot interaction have largely focused on more constrained contexts, largely dyadic and small group interactions in laboratories. As a result, we have a limited understanding of how robots are perceived, adopted and supported in open-ended, natural social circumstances in which researchers have little control of the ensuing interactions. This talk will discuss insights from a series of studies of the design and use of socially assistive robots (SARs) for eldercare aimed at expanding our awareness of the broader cultural, organizational, and societal dynamics that affect the use and consequences of robots outside the laboratory. Our in-home interviews with older adults suggested that existing robot designs reproduce unwanted stereotypes of aging, while naturalistic observation of robot use in a nursing home shows that ongoing labor by various groups of users is needed to produce successful voluntary human-robot interactions. In response to these findings, we are currently engaging in participatory design of robots with older adults and clinicians to provide an opportunity for mutual learning, inspire both sides to think beyond common stereotypes of older adults and robots, and identify non-technical issues of particular concern to clinicians and older adults that may affect long-term robot adoption. These concerns include the fit of robots to the home environments and values of older adults, to the labor practices and clinical needs of care staff, and to the broader healthcare infrastructure (e.g. insurance mechanisms). In conclusion, I will discuss ways to address broader organizational and societal issues in the course of robot design and development, working together with potential users and other stakeholders to avoid unwanted consequences and create robust social supports that can cope with the inevitable challenges that emerge when we apply robots in society.

Additional Information

Host: Aaron Steinfeld

Appointments: Stephanie Matvey

Speaker Biography

I am an Associate Professor of Informatics and Cognitive Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, where I founded and direct the R-House Human-Robot Interaction Lab. My work combines the social studies of computing, focusing particularly on the design, use, and consequences of socially interactive and assistive robots in different social and cultural contexts, with research on human-robot interaction (HRI) and social robot design. I spent Summer 2014 as a Visiting Professor at Bielefeld University's Cluster of Excellence in Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). Prior to coming to IUB, I was a lecturer in Stanford University's Program in Science, Technology and Society in 2008/2009, and a visiting scholar at the Intelligent Systems Institute in AIST, Tsukuba, Japan and the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. I was awarded IU’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in 2013, and the Trustee’s Teaching Award in 2016. I received my PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007.