When I’m not exploring social media, writing, researching, consulting, travelling, creating photography and else, I’m curious about other things that are interconnected with Information-Communication technologies. This is my first text for the Scientific American blog on robots and new technologies.
They learn to speak, write, and do arithmetic. They have a phenomenal memory. If one read them the Encyclopedia Britannica they could repeat everything back in order, but they never think up anything original. They’d make fine university professors.
R.U.R. (1920), Karel Čapek
My first experience with robots was through popular culture and literature when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with the first computers, space and robots: Star wars and R2D2 (first indication of my geekiness), watching many times and dreaming of Blade runner, reading short stories by I.Asimov. Later on, during college, courses on information systems, cybernetics caught my attention, from the cybernetic communication models to cybernetic organisms being described as cyborgs and the larger networks of communication. I was interested in techno-science and feminist-cyborg studies of Donna Haraway and S.Turkle’s cyber-analysis of the robots sociability, her studies on intimate bonds we form with our artifacts (robots and computers), and how they shape who we are. Finally, with the Internet expansion my interests switched to Information and communication technologies and Computer-Mediated Communication, networked and learning systems.
Then, last December at TED Women I’ve reached a “robotic moment” watching a roboticist from MIT, Cynthia Breazeal, who talked about robots in communication technologies: mobile, expressive, performing collaborative tasks, and socially engaging, something that interconnected with my internet studies and research on communication in different contexts.
People interact with robots identically as with their computers. They trust in them and they are emotionally engaged. To find out more about the possibilities of robots and their proliferation in society (in learning, medicine, space, everyday life) as well as the European robotic scene, I was talking with researchers in Cognitive Robotics Sasa Bodiroza and his colleague Guido Schillaci from the Cognitive Robotics Department at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
DR: Welcome to The Scientific American blog. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? What is your scientific background?
SB: My name is Sasa Bodiroza and I am a PhD student in the Cognitive Robotics Group at the Institute of Informatics, Humboldt University of Berlin. I work together with my colleague Guido Schillaci, under supervision of Prof. Verena Hafner.
I finished my BSc and MSc studies in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. My bachelor and master theses were in the area of fuzzy logic: developing a system for student learning.
GS: Hello, my name is Guido Schillaci and I’m from Palermo, Italy. I’m a Ph.D. student at the Humboldt University Berlin where I’m a member, with Sasa Bodiroza, of the Cognitive Robotics Group supervised by Prof. Verena Hafner. We’re involved in the International Research Network INTRO (INTeractive RObotics) funded by EU.
I have a Bachelor Degree in Computer Engineering and a Master Degree in Computer Engineering for Intelligent Systems, both from the University of Palermo. I studied for one year at the School of Computer Engineering (ETSIIT) of Granada, Spain. My thesis dealt with machine learning techniques for robotics.
DR: What’s your PhD research about?
My research is a part of an international research network INTRO (INTeractive Robotics), a project in the EU 7th Framework Program (FP7). The network consists of four university partners: Umea University, Humboldt University of Berlin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and two industry partners: Robosoft and Space Application Services.
I am interested in the use of gestures in human-robot interaction. I focus on dynamic gesture analysis, which includes recognition, learning and synthesis of gestures. Another important aspect are methods for determination of human gesture vocabularies, as well as sets of gestures fit to the particular robot morphology.