Assistive robotics are increasingly an area of societal interest as the population ages and individuals with disabilities seek to maintain as much independence as possible. However, robotic systems were initially designed to replace humans in hazardous situations, not interact with them. Assistive robotics, by design, will interact with humans, and this poses new challenges that must be addressed related to the user interface and safety. In order to insure the safety of users and encourage average citizens to use of assistive robots, research is needed into how to develop, manufacture, and control robots that are designed to interact with individuals on a daily basis and in a home environment. This conference award will provide support for the 2018 Workshop on Human-Friendly Robotics at the University of Texas, San Antonio in September 2018. This is the first time that this workshop, held annually in Europe since 2008, will be held in the United States. The focus of the workshop is on identifying the scientific and technological challenges that exist related to safely and effectively integrating robots into our daily lives, particularly in the area of rehabilitation and assistive technology.
This award will provide financial support for nine invited speakers, internationally renowned, to attend the workshop and lead the discussions. The discussions will be focused on identifying the current state of the art and the key unresolved problems and challenges that need to be addressed through research. The presentations and follow-on discussions will be archived and made available to the public. A second goal of the workshop is to catalyze collaborations among researchers, both within the US and with international partners, to further advance this area of engineering. Finally, by hosting the workshop on the campus of a minority-serving institution, the organizers hope to include many underrepresented students in the workshop and use the results of the workshop to excite K12 students regarding opportunities in STEM.