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CITRIS Research Exchange: Verónica Ahumada on Inclusive Robotics

Research Exchange event banner. Text reads: "Seminar Series Spring 2023."

Talk Title: “Telepresence Robots: Designing for an Inclusive Future”

Speaker: Verónica Ahumada, Assistant Professor, Health Informatics and Human-robot Interaction, Department of Pediatrics and MIND Institute, UC Davis Health

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Abstract: Innovative approaches to technology-mediated health care require holistic, patient-centered interventions to address health challenges. Emerging telepresence and social robots have the potential to transform the health experiences of people who are restricted to their homes due to medical conditions or disabilities. Use of these robots may promote social inclusion and enable connectedness within existing physical communities. This presentation will discuss telepresence, virtual inclusion and the growing use of social telerobots in public spaces. This will include an overview of conceptual, theoretical, methodological and translational approaches to robot-mediated behavioral and developmental interventions. The Presence and Social Connectedness Framework will be explored as a tool to measure perceived connectedness and inform development of robot design features that facilitate presence and inclusion. This presentation will also explore the intersection of three disciplines (developmental psychology, human-robot interaction, human-computer interaction) that work jointly to move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem.

Verónica Ahumada. Speaker Bio: Verónica Ahumada is an assistant professor of health informatics and human-robot interaction in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Davis. She directs the Technology and Social Connectedness (TASC) Lab in UC Davis Health’s Center for Health and Technology. Her work is focused on the use of assistive social robots and interactive technologies to improve health and developmental outcomes. Ahumada is the principal investigator of a $1 million National Science Foundation National Robotics Initiative grant to create better telerobots for children restricted to their homes due to medical conditions or disabilities. She is also co-PI on a $1.2 million UC Multicampus Research Projects and Initiatives project to create telemanipulation robots for health care worker safety and social inclusion of individuals at high infection risk. Her research encompasses collaborations among medicine, health informatics, robotics, pediatrics, computer science and learning sciences.

About the Series: CITRIS Research Exchange delivers fresh perspectives on information technology and society from distinguished academic, industry and civic leaders. Free and open to the public, these seminars feature leading voices on societal-scale research issues. Presentations take place on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. PT. Have an idea for a great talk? Please feel free to suggest potential speakers for our series.

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