Human-Centered Robotics

Motivation and Broader Impacts

Robots promise to enhance human health and quality of life in a multitude of ways (Figure 1). For instance, they hold the potential to (1) reduce the risk of injury during strenuous activities, (2) increase overall health through implicit exercise, (3) restore functional behaviors for those with motor impairments, and (4) offer opportunities for remote operation, ensuring the safety of medical and emergency personnel dangerous environments (e.g., infectious disease outbreaks, disaster relief). Fulfillment of this promise, however, still requires technological advancements to ensure that robotic systems can interact with humans safely and effectively.  

Opportunity to Establish and Fund New Collaborations

A major challenge in the design and development of human-centered robotic systems is the need for expertise across multiple disciplines. Currently, most robotic systems operate in isolated environments void of human contact. Bringing robots into human environments, however, requires that they have extra capabilities, namely the ability to measure and make sense of human intent, perception, and behavior during interaction. We posit that establishing connections between CPHM faculty, who have expertise in developing and evaluating low-cost, multi-function, wearable, wireless sensor systems to measure human behavior, and robotics faculty will lead synergistic research opportunities in the rapidly growing field of human-centered robotics.   The overall goal of this research thrust is to establish new and fundable interdisciplinary collaborations amongst UMASS faculty that advance human-centered robotics. This will be achieved by hosting a series of activities that facilitate interactions and foster collaboration opportunities between UMass Amherst faculty and student researchers from three disciplines: (1) human neuromechanics, (2) human wearable technology, and (3) robotics (Figure 2). This research thrust has the potential to not only connect researcher on campus, but also provide opportunities to seek new avenues for research funding in human-centered robotics – e.g., NSF Mind Motor Machine Nexus (M3X), NSF Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), NSF Smart and Connected Health (SCH), NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), NIH National Institute of Aging (NIA), NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). It will also establish a new direction for research training funding – e.g., NIH T32 Training Grant and NSF Research Traineeship Program. 

The core faculty leadership is comprised of the following faculty members from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS):  

  • Bruno Castro da Silva, Assistant Professor CICS 
  • Meghan E. Huber, Assistant Professor MIE 
  • Donghyun Kim, Assistant Professor CICS Scott Niekum, Associate Professor CICS Gina Olson, Assistant Professor MIE
  • Frank C. Sup, Associate Professor CICS Hao Zhang, Associate Professor CICS