By Vincent Lim
This story was originally published in Partners, a publication of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
Consumers can now interact with artificially intelligent machines in their homes through Google Home and Amazon Echo, which serve as personal assistants that answer questions, tell jokes and
play music, but there is a potential for deeper human-machine connections.
A USC project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation is exploring how robots can provide companionship and support intergenerational interactions between older adults and other family members in the same house.
Shinyi Wu, an associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and a senior scientist at the School’s USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, is a co-principal investigator on the project and part of the research team led by principal investigator Maja Matarić, the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at USC, the founding director of the USC Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center and the Vice Dean for Research in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
The project’s other co-principal investigator is Elizabeth Zelinski, the Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Education and Aging at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Elaine Short and Katelyn Swift-Spong, PhD students in the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School are the lead student researchers on the project.
“Robots cannot replace our closest human companions, but we’re investigating how companion technologies can facilitate and enhance existing family relationships,” Wu said.