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KU Engineering to Host International Social Robotics Conference

Thursday, October 13, 2016

LAWRENCE — The eighth International Conference on Social Robotics will draw experts from around the world to Kansas City in November, a gathering sponsored in part by KU’s School of Engineering.

Professor Arvin Agah, the school’s associate dean for research and graduate programs, is the general chair of the conference, which will look at the interactions between robots and humans as robots become increasingly integrated into our society. In the next few years, he said, robots are expected to be increasingly present in the homes, offices and other environments — assisting the elderly, for example, or helping children with autism.

If you’re looking forward to a future where a robot fetches your slippers, this event is for you.

“Robotics have a promising future. So does artificial intelligence, so when the two of them come together, it is remarkable,” said Agah, who is credited with coining the term “sociorobotics” in the 1990s. “Social robots have the potential to improve the quality of our lives. You’ve heard of driverless cars? The next step is these things coming into our homes.”

The conference will feature discussions of topics such as robots with personality, personal robots in the home, expressive robot faces, robots for smart environments, robot ethics and more. The proceedings of the conference will be published by Springer, with select papers to appear in the International Journal of Social Robotics.

This will be the first year that the conference takes place in the U.S. It has previously taken place in France, Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Netherlands, Singapore and Korea.

The three-day event will also feature two world-renowned keynote speakers: Professors Maja Mataric of the University of Southern California and Brian Scassellati of Yale University. The event will also include a robot design competition among the participants.

Some people might be discomfited by the idea of working so closely with robots — particularly those endowed with artificial intelligence features like the ability to read emotion. Agah, though, notes that many people are welcoming A.I. into their homes with products like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.

“Picture Echo or Siri, but in a little robot that perceives its environment and acts accordingly,” he said, adding: “The intent is to have a very cool, intelligent tool in your house that would be of assistance to you.”

Other sponsors of the event are Springer, the publisher of academic journals, and SoftBank Robotics.

The conference is Nov. 1-3 at the Kansas City Marriott Country Club Plaza. The public is welcome to register and attend. More information can be found at Icsoro.org.


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