Interactive Computing Professor Wins Navy Research Grant

July 30, 2008

Andrea Thomaz, assistant professor in interactive computing, has been selected as an Office of Naval Research 2008 Young Investigator for her work to develop robots that are capable of social learning. Only 27 Young Investigators were selected this year from 208 applicants in what the Navy calls “severe” competition. The award carries with it funding of up to $100,000 annually for three years.
Thomaz, director of the Socially Intelligent Machines Research Lab, says the award will support her own work and that of two graduate students in the relatively new field of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) and will allow her to build a new robot platform.
“I proposed to develop a cognitive architecture that results in a robot that is able to participate in turn-taking interactions that are fundamental to human communication,” Thomaz said.
In their work at the Socially Intelligent Machines Research Lab, Thomaz and others work on the core scientific questions that must be solved before machines can function in dynamic, inherently social human environments. Without this, robots will not be able to leave the labs and factory floors they currently occupy to help solve critical social problems ranging from education to eldercare.
“This is a great opportunity for my lab to get started on tackling some fundamental issues in HRI,” Thomaz said.