I am a social scientist whose research can be situated at the intersection between social human-robot interaction, assistive and educational technologies, and multimodal interaction. I am interested in studying the emotional and social linkage that the interaction with social robots triggers, how this can be used for assistive and educational purposes, and how it might impact and shape our society.

My vision is that in the future social robots will be empathetic agents given the ability to understand our psychological states and react accordingly. Such a scenario has a twofold implication for research in human-robot interaction. On the one side, it entails that researchers will progress in their understanding of how humans express affective states in interaction with social robots and will implement such an understanding onto robotic platforms for state recognition and behavior personalization. On the other side, it implies that researchers will have the responsibility to investigate the ethical implications of endowing social robots with human understanding and build in them a moral judgment.

In this sense, I am interested in the following research questions: 

  • How do humans express social and emotional engagement with social robots in different contexts (e.g., school, nursing home, museum)? 
  • Which behavioral (verbal and non-verbal) and physiological cues can social robots use to recognize social and emotional engagement in users?
  • How can we use the social and emotional engagement with social robots to boost educational and therapeutic outcomes?
  • What are the ethical and societal implications of the increasing ability of social robots to empathize with humans?
  • How can we help social robots in making decisions when a moral judgment is involved?

By answering these questions, we will not only learn how to improve the interaction with social robots and design more compelling robotic technologies, but we will also build safe robots able to make a difference in society and self-reflect on their own actions.