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I have been asked on more than one occasion how I took a path from film theory to Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). Frankly, the connection to me seems very clear—both paths of inquiry are scaffolded by an interest in human communication through and with technologies. Münsterberg [1] has said that the arrangement of events in film correlates with the way we think, and I believe there is truth in that theory. My academic and professional background and interests are very complementary.

Academic work in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) studies and my professional experience in Web development dovetailed—on the job, I did usability testing of sites and Web-based software and applications—and I repeatedly observed people describing personal relationships and reactions to information presented on the computer screen. My academic interests evolved from human interaction with Web-based Embodied Conversational Agents (ECA) to human interaction with robots. To me, robots offer some of the most interesting proving and testing ground for media, communication, and cultural theories.

My primary research goal is to investigate human-robot emotional attachment issues, focusing on how these things influence user decision-making in human-robot teamwork or collaborative situations, especially in stressful situations. More broadly, I am interested in people, and their experiences interacting with robots. The methods and strategies I use to explore these topics are human-centered, and rooted in social science ways of understanding individuals and their relationships to others, and to the world around them.

The current state of robot development is moving quickly, yet human-centered research in human-robot interaction is still emerging. This void in robot development may have an enormous impact on robot effectiveness in situations such as medical, defense, space exploration, or humanitarian relief use and training scenarios. Building robots without attending to human factors can also have a heavy ethical cost given the roles these robots play. My research investigates the human side of human-robot teamwork, and then suggests practical applications based on these research findings in order to aid successful task and mission outcomes.

Contact me to inquire about my teaching, research, or consulting approach, or to discuss a specific problem you are trying to solve; or to invite me to submit a proposal.

[1] Münsterberg, H. (1916). The photoplay: A psychological study. (2005, eds.) A. Longhurst & Feilbach, A. [The Project Gutenberg EBook #15383]. New York: D. Appleton & Company.