Understanding Human Behavior for Robotic Assistance and Collaboration

January 01, 2020

Thursday, January 9th at 11:00 am
in 1170 TMCB
Host: Jacob Crandall

Colloquium presented by Henny Admoni

Human-robot collaboration has the potential to transform the way people work and live. To be effective assistants, these robots must be able to recognize aspects of their human partners such as what their goals are, what their next action will be, and when they need help---in short, their task-relevant mental states. A large part of communication about mental states occurs nonverbally, through eye gaze, gestures, and other behaviors that provide implicit information. Therefore, to be effective collaborators, robots must understand and respond to nonverbal human communication. This requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves robotics, psychology, machine learning, and computer vision. In this talk, I will describe my work on robots that collaborate with and assist humans on complex tasks, such as eating a meal. I will show how natural, intuitive human behaviors can reveal human mental states that robots must respond to. Throughout the talk, I will describe how techniques and knowledge from cognitive science help us develop robot algorithms that lead to more effective interactions between people and their robot partners.


Henny Admoni is an Assistant Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where she leads the Human And Robot Partners (HARP) Lab. Henny studies how to develop intelligent robots that can assist and collaborate with humans on complex tasks like preparing a meal. She is most interested in how natural human communication, like where someone is looking, can reveal underlying human intentions and can be used to improve human-robot interactions. Henny's research has been supported by the US National Science Foundation, the US Office of Naval Research, the Paralyzed Veterans of America Foundation, and Sony Corporation. Her work has been featured by the media such as NPR's Science Friday, Voice of America News, and WESA radio. Before her current position, Henny was a postdoctoral fellow at CMU. She holds an MS and PhD in Computer Science from Yale University and a BA/MA joint degree in Computer Science from Wesleyan University.