UW CSE MSR Summer Institute 2018

Social Robotics: Challenges, Opportunities, and New Directions


The 2018 Summer Institute, cosponsored by the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington and Microsoft Research will be held at the Alderbrook Resort in Union, Washington from the evening of July 23 through mid-afternoon July 26, 2018. Union is approximately ninety minutes southwest of Seattle.


The field of social robotics has reached a critical milestone this past year: the first consumer social robots have shipped and are now continuously interacting with people in their homes or workplaces on a daily basis. Several other robots followed shortly after and many more are in the works. While this achievement gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made with 20+ years of research across many disciplines, it also presents us with a brand new set of challenges and opportunities. Challenges range from privacy, policy, and ethical concerns related to robots interacting with potentially vulnerable users 24/7, to setting and meeting user expectations and maintaining long-term engagement with users. Many opportunities are presented as these robots become standard robust platforms for which anyone can develop applications or create content, much like mobile phones have been in the past century. While economic upside is driving many commercial applications of social robots, their applications for social good is particularly overlooked.

As a group of researchers who are at the forefront of social robotics, we believe that this is a turning point for research in this area. The UW/MSR Summer Institute on social robotics will bring together leaders of the field and those of potential new application areas to define new research directions for the field. The goals of our UW/MSR Summer Institute are to:
  • Reflect on the technological innovations that have led to the achievement of consumer social robots; discuss the next set of innovations that will enhance their utility and effectiveness.
  • Discuss new applications of social robots in new areas including accessibility, ICTD, sustainability, rehabilitation, therapy, and education
  • Discuss societal challenges and identify research questions related to privacy, policy, and ethics of social robotics in current and future applications
  • Discuss technical and design challenges and identify research questions related to perception (scene understanding, person recognition, emotion recognition), speech and language processing, dialog management, programming and verification, affective computing and expressive motion generation of social robots in current and future applications
  • Build bridges across the social robotics and "social good" researchers across UW, MSR, and other institutions.

To achieve these goals we hope to bring together researchers from UW, MSR, and other institutions working in social robotics, enabling technology areas such as computer vision or speech and language processing, as well as new application areas such as accessibility, ICTD, health, and education. The summer institute will involve talks presenting existing or emerging work that (1) illustrates current applications of social robots, (2) demonstrates the latest enabling technologies for social robots, (3) demonstrates or speculates on societal challenges related to social robots, (4) introduces problems and existing (non-robotics) solutions in new application areas for social robots. Discussions will center around identifying unexplored challenges and opportunities.


Sean Andrist, Microsoft Research
Dan Bohus, Microsoft Research
Maya Cakmak, University of Washington
Siddhartha Srinivasa, University of Washington

Descriptions of past summer institutes may be viewed at: www.cs.washington.edu/events/mssi/.