Robotics Sciences And Systems (RSS)

Ann Arbor, June 19th, 2016

A Full-day Broadening Participation
in Computing Workshop

Keynote Speakers

Morning Keynote


Maja Matarić


Robots That (Provide) Care


Socially assistive robotics (SAR) is a new field of intelligent robotics that focuses on developing machines capable of assisting users through social rather than physical interaction. The robot’s physical embodiment is at the heart of SAR’s effectiveness, as it leverages the inherently human tendency to engage with lifelike (but not necessarily human-like or otherwise biomimetic) social behavior. People readily ascribe intention, personality, and emotion to robots; SAR leverages this engagement stemming from non-contact social interaction involving speech, gesture, movement demonstration and imitation, and encouragement, to develop robots capable of monitoring, motivating, and sustaining user activities and improving human learning, training, performance and health outcomes. Human-robot interaction (HRI) for SAR is a growing multifaceted research area at the intersection of engineering, health sciences, neuroscience, social, and cognitive sciences. This talk will describe our research into embodiment, modeling and steering social dynamics, and long-term user adaptation for SAR. The research will be grounded in projects involving analysis of multi-modal activity data, modeling personality and engagement, formalizing social use of space and non-verbal communication, and personalizing the interaction with the user over a period of months, among others. The presented methods and algorithms will be validated on implemented SAR systems evaluated by human subject cohorts from a variety of user populations, including stroke patients, children with autism spectrum disorder, and elderly with Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.

Speaker Biography

Maja Matarić is professor and Chan Soon-Shiong chair in Computer Science Department, Neuroscience Program, and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, founding director of the USC Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center (RASC), co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab and Vice Dean for Research in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. She received her PhD in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence from MIT in 1994, MS in Computer Science from MIT in 1990, and BS in Computer Science from the University of Kansas in 1987.

She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Fellow of the IEEE and AAAI, and recipient of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award for Innovation, Okawa Foundation Award, NSF Career Award, the MIT TR35 Innovation Award, and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award. She served as the elected president of the USC faculty and the Academic Senate. At USC she has been awarded the Viterbi School of Engineering Service Award and Junior Research Award, the Provost's Mentoring Award and Center for Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship, the Mellon Mentoring Award, the Academic Senate Distinguished Faculty Service Award, and a Remarkable Woman Award. She is featured in the science documentary movie "Me & Isaac Newton", in The New Yorker ("Robots that Care" by Jerome Groopman, 2009), Popular Science ("The New Face of Autism Therapy", 2010), the IEEE Spectrum ("Caregiver Robots", 2010), and is one of the LA Times Magazine 2010 Visionaries.

Prof. Matarić is the author of a popular introductory robotics textbook, "The Robotics Primer" (MIT Press 2007), an associate editor of three major journals and has published extensively. She serves or has recently served on a number of advisory boards, including the National Science Foundation Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) Division Advisory Committee, and the Willow Garage and Evolution Robotics Scientific Advisory Boards. Prof. Matarić is actively involved in K-12 educational outreach, having obtained federal and corporate grants to develop free open-source curricular materials for elementary and middle-school robotics courses in order to engage student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics.

Her Interaction Lab's research into socially assistive robotics is aimed at endowing robots with the ability to help people through individual non-contact assistance in convalescence, rehabilitation, training, and education. Her research is currently developing robot-assisted therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders, stroke and traumatic brain injury survivors, and individuals with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia.

Afternoon Keynote


Lydia Kavraki


Computing for Robots and Biomolecules


Robots are rapidly evolving from simple instruments for repetitive tasks to increasingly sophisticated machines capable of performing challenging operations in our daily environment. This talk will describe efficient algorithms for computing robot motions from high-level specifications. By drawing an analogy between robots and molecules, the talk will also present robotics-inspired methods to compute the flexibility of large biomolecular machines with the ultimate goal of aiding the discovery of new therapeutics.

Speaker Biography:

Dr. Lydia E. Kavraki is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and Bioengineering at Rice University. She received her B.A. in Computer Science from the University of Crete in Greece and her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. Her research contributions are in physical algorithms and their applications in robotics (robot motion planning, hybrid systems, formal methods in robotics, assembly planning, micromanipulation, and flexible object manipulation), as well as in computational structural biology, translational bioinformatics, and biomedical informatics (modeling of proteins and biomolecular interactions, large-scale functional annotation of proteins, computer-assisted drug design, and systems biology). Dr. Kavraki has authored more than 180 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications and is one of the authors of the robotics textbook titled "Principles of Robot Motion" published by MIT Press. She is heavily involved in the development of The Open Motion Planning Library (OMPL), which is used in industry and in academic research in robotics and bioinformatics. Dr. Kavraki is currently on the editorial board of the International Journal of Robotics Research, the ACM/IEEE Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, the Computer Science Review, and Big Data. She is also a member of the editorial advisory board of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics. Dr. Kavraki is the recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper Award for her technical contributions. She has also received an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Fellowship, the Early Academic Career Award from the IEEE Society on Robotics and Automation, a recognition as a top young investigator from the MIT Technology Review Magazine, and the Duncan Award for excellence in research and teaching from Rice University. She is a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the World Technology Network (WTN), and has received the Texas Women in Science Award by BioHouston. Dr. Kavraki is a member of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST), and an elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.