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RUBI robot close-up -- photo by Erik JepsenExploring Human-Robot Interaction

RUBI started preschool in 2005. She hasn’t graduated yet. The robot is part of ongoing work at UC San Diego to understand human-robot interaction and to build robots that are both useful to humans and compatible with us.

The brain child of Javier Movellan, now at Apple, RUBI has joined the lab of Andrea Chiba of Cognitive Science. RUBI will continue to visit UC San Diego’s Early Childhood Education Center with Cognitve Science doctoral alumna Deborah Forster and help to teach the preschoolers letters, numbers and fun songs.

The robot will also continue to teach researchers this: What are the key components for successfully engaging a human with a robot? What works for us, what doesn’t? Over the years, RUBI has evolved in response to the people she has been interacting with, learning to recognize faces, for example, read emotions, and play a give-and-take game the children seem to especially enjoy. All timed in such a way that the interaction is “natural” for our brains.

Understanding the Brain and Behavior

Chiba, a professor in the Department of Cognitive Science and science director of the NSF Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center, is also part of an interdisciplinary team working with a robotic rat called iRat. Funded by the federal BRAIN Initiative, the team is learning about the social brain by studying the interaction of the machine rodent and its biological counterparts. Rats are highly social creatures and give insights into not only their own kind but ours as well.

iRat with rat

Cultural and Public Infrastructure Also Key to Contextual Robotics Institute

In 2015, UC San Diego launched the Contextual Robotics Institute.  A partnership of the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Division of Social Sciences at UC San Diego, the institute leverages existing research strengths across the campus and the region to develop tomorrow’s human-friendly robots. Elder care and assisted living, disaster response, medicine, transportation and environmental sensing are just some of the helpful applications that could emerge. As with all our pursuits – whether at the Yankelovich Center or the Department of Education Studies – we seek solutions to social problems.