Dr. sc. M.S.E.
SaPHaRI (Social Physical Human-Robot Interaction) Lab
This page is designed to provide an overview of the past and current research projects conducted in the SaPHaRI Lab. You may also use this page to learn how to get involved!
Modular affect-sensing wearable to promote social interactions: We encounter many agents throughout daily life, both external (other people, animals, and objects) and internal (affects, i.e. emotions). However, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced our interactions with external agents due to the increased social isolation and thus amplified our interactions with harmful internal agents. As a result, negative affect–like depression, anxiety, self-doubt, or lethargy -can enter our personal space. When negative affect persists without intervention, it can significantly harm a person’s mental/physical health and overall well-being. To counteract the wearer’s damaging internal agents, we are developing a modular, robotic wearable that infers the negative affect of the user and encourages nearby external human agents to provide affective, social touch to the wearer.
Compliant Tactile-Sensing Gripper the Baxter Robot: Humanoid collaborative robots (co-bots), like the Baxter (Rethink Robotics, 2011) have been heavily used for HRI research. However, while Baxter is a useful tool for many applications, it lacks compliant, sensing and manipulation capabilities for social touch interactions. Thus, we are designing a tactile-sensing gripper with a particular emphasis on improving specific human interactions, such affective social touches (rubs, pats, etc.). Central to our objective is the gripper's capacity to sense the human body's surface at any location on the end-effector. Thus, we employ continuous low-cost light sensors throughout the gripper, rather than just located at the distal phalanx, as commonly seen in tactile sensors. We have created a system that can be calibrated to apply and maintain a consistent amount of pressure when interacting with humans and moving along non uniform surfaces by using this sensor data. The integration of low-cost photosensitive electronics and the use of 3D printed components aims to create an accessible and replicable gripper that can be incorporated into other robots.
HuggieBot: Over the course of my doctorate, I investigated how a robot could deliver a high-quality embrace to a human. Particularly the novel robotic platform called HuggieBot received international attention. This human-sized hugging robot has two padded arms, an inflatable sensing torso, and a face screen mounted to a rigid frame. A camera above the screen visually senses the user at the start of the interaction and as they approach, and torque sensors on the shoulder pan and elbow flexion joints are used to embrace the user with a comfortable pressure. Throughout my dissertation I created four iteratively improved versions of HuggieBot and evaluated it through six user studies. Through this process, I created and validated 11 hugging design guidelines for robots to provide their hugging partners with a high-quality embrace. I developed the HuggieChest for the robot to simultaneously soften the robot and sense user contacts. To make the robot responsive to user intra-hug gestures, I created a detection and classification algorithm to detect both coarse and fine user contacts on the torso, and created a probabilistic behavior algorithm based on use preferences for how the robot should respond to detected intra-hug gestures. My doctoral work culminated in investigating the emotional and physiological effects of embracing HuggieBot compared to hugging a friendly but unfamiliar person. I found that the benefits and enjoyment of a robot hug are similar to those from another person!
More details coming soon!
How to get involved!
Postdocs: I currently do not have any funding to support postdocs. However, I would still love to work with you! Please reach out to me via email and we can discuss potential research proposals that are of mutual interest. I would be more than happy to appply with you for fellowships to support your postdoc stay in my lab. (This is how my postdoc was funded too!)
Ph.D. Students: Feel free to send me an email, and we can schedule a time to chat and see if our research interests align. Please be sure to apply directly to the graduate program at Case Western Reserve University. If you mention my name on your application as a potential faculty member you would like to work with, I will be sure to review your application alongside the rest of the applicant pool. I am planning to accept at least one new student into the lab next year. If you are a current Ph.D. student at CWRU interested in joining my lab, please take my course ECSE: 600 Introduction to Human-Robot Interaction this fall (2023), as it will be required for all graduate students wishing to work with me.
Masters Students: I will have openings for master's students this year, but I do not make any decisions about MS students until they arrive on campus. Please note that I do not have funding for terminal master's students in my lab. If you're interested in learning more, reach out to me once you've heard back from CWRU regarding your admission!
Undergraduate Students: I enjoy working with undergradutes looking to get involved inresearch! The number of opportunities available may vary based on the projects currently underway in the lab. If you're intersted in being considered for a current or future position, please fill out this form.