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RI Seminar: Ayanna Howard
Robots in Play: Human-Robot Interaction Schemes for Pediatric Therapy

Ayanna Howard
Motorola Foundation Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chair, Robotics PhD Program, Georgia Tech

April 26, 2013, 3:30 - 4:30 pm, 1305 Newell-Simon Hall

There is an estimated 150 million children worldwide living with a disability. For many of these children in the U.S., physical therapy is provided as an intervention mechanism to support the child’s academic, developmental, and functional goals from birth and beyond. With the recent advances in robotics, therapeutic intervention protocols using robots is now ideally positioned to make an impact in this domain. There are numerous challenges though that still must be addressed to enable successful interaction between patients, clinicians, and robots - developing interfaces for clinicians to communicate rehabilitation objectives to the robot; developing methods for the robot to interact with the child to enable adherence to the therapy protocol; and ensuring that the robot can provide feedback to the clinician on patient improvement and compliance. Designing human-interaction methodologies that can tackle these issues may enable a new era of progress in healthcare robotics for children. In this talk, I will discuss the role of robotics and related technologies for pediatric therapy and highlight methods that bring us closer to this goal. I will present approaches in which these technologies can also address real-life therapy needs of children with upper-arm mobility impairments.

Please note: The speaker has requested that this talk not be webcast or captured. It will not be available on videotape

Additional Information

Host: David Wettergreen

Appointments: Stephanie Matvey (

Speaker Biography

Ayanna Howard is the Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her B.S. from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1999. Her area of research is centered around the concept of humanized intelligence, the process of embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous systems. This work, which addresses issues of autonomous control as well as aspects of interaction with humans and the surrounding environment, has resulted in over 130 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects – from scientific rover navigation in glacier environments to assistive robots for the home. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator of 2003, recognized as NSBE Educator of the Year in 2009, and receiving the Georgia-Tech Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award in 2013. From 1993-2005, Dr. Howard was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. Following this, she joined Georgia Tech in July 2005 and founded the Human-Automation Systems Lab. She also serves as Chair of the multidisciplinary Robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech.

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