Social Robotics

Funded by the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), under the CISE Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education (CPATH) program.

Key Personal:

Nick Webb (ILS, UAlbany) (Principal Investigator and Main Contact)
Selmer Bringsjord (RPI) (Co-Principal Investigator)
Valerie Barr (Union College) (Co-Principal Investigator)
Robert Salkin (Schenectady County Community College) (Co-Principal Investigator)
Ilene Frank (Schenectady Museum) (Co-Principal Investigator)

NSF Webpage:


1st August 2007 – 31st July 2009

The proposal abstract says:

The Team proposes to use Social Robotics as a mechanism to deliver a revitalized Computer Science (CS) education. Robots are a fantastic platform for students to learn key CS concepts, begin to program and get immediate feedback, and to learn about both hardware and software, and the interplay between the two. Robotics has a widespread base of appeal to students, academics and the general public alike. A Social Robot is one that interacts and communicates with humans by following the social rules attached to its role. The role and its rules are defined through society. For example, a robotic waiter would have to comply with established rules of good service. It should be anticipating, reliable and most of all discreet. A social robot must be aware of these rules and comply with them. There are many aspects to the evolution of Social Robots, which need to draw on elements of Design, Psychology, Cognitive Science, Communication and Philosophy in addition to, and in harmony with, traditional Computer Science and Engineering principles. The multi- school team plans to use this proposal to build a community of stakeholders in Social Robotics in the Capital Region of upstate New York. On top of planned regular meetings, and the gathering and collection of information, they will hold four open workshops at a local public Museum, to bring together the stakeholders with academics, students, and representatives from industry and members of the public, to outline a program in Social Robotics. The central aim of the program is to design alternative mechanisms of entry into, and routes through, a Social Robotics curriculum designed to enable students with a wide variety of skills and interests to interact. Both Pull mechanisms, drawing students into a Computer Science program and Push mechanisms, to deliver key concepts in other majors are planned. This plan leverages the collaboration of schools and colleges in the Capital region, as no one school is ideally placed to deliver such an education. The outcome of this proposal will be a plan of implementing a program in Social robotics, which can be implemented both locally, and nationally.