My impression of Alexa is better than this, but it is still a fun video to watch because it reflects the current speech recognition and natural language processing issues in artificial intelligence. And HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey shot by Stanley Kubrick in 1968) is always a classic movie to ruminate on.
Victoria Nneji, a colleague of mine, mentioned to me the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century, and which I found very interesting. These challenges are not only talking about what changes we can make, but also about what need to be changed. I like the challenge of JOY OF LIVING and propose to scale up customization using Human Factors methods. I study what factors influence people's intrinsic motivation in interacting with robots, their emotional attachment to the robots, and how we can design the robots accordingly. The findings will generalize to different entities in people's ordinary life.
"From urban centers to remote corners of Earth, the depths of the oceans to space, humanity has always sought to transcend barriers, overcome challenges, and create opportunities that improve life in our part of the universe. In the last century alone, many GREAT ENGINEERING ACHIEVEMENTS became so commonplace that we now take them mostly for granted. Technology allows an abundant supply of food and safe drinking water for much of the world. We rely on electricity for many of our daily activities. We can travel the globe with relative ease, and bring goods and services wherever they are needed. Growing computer and communications technologies are opening up vast stores of knowledge and entertainment. As remarkable as these engineering achievements are, certainly just as many more great challenges and opportunities remain to be realized. While some seem clear, many others are indistinct and many more surely lie beyond most of our imaginations.
I received a greeting card from FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and I liked it a lot. Wish you the same!
I learned Chinese calligraphy in primary school. Since my parents had never been to school, they would ask me to help write signs and phone number on pieces of red and long paper at the size of about two A4 paper, saying "房屋出租" (i.e., room for rent) or "店面出租" (i.e., shop for rent). I was not confident about my brush pen writing because I saw my teacher and classmates write much better than I did. I felt a bit reluctant doing this job, concerning that my writing was not good enough putting up on the streets. But I still obeyed. I practiced multiple times and did the best I could to write the signs. However, my parents were very pleased with my writing and they felt that they invested money wisely training me in Chinese calligraphy.
Now I look back, this thing has some important implications.
First, what was the purpose of the work? The primary purpose was to display information about the room availability and contact information, and the aesthetic part was secondary. My struggle was too much concern about the aesthetic part that caused stress to myself. It may invite appreciation if the writing were more artistic, but that was not the purpose. People contacted my parents mainly because they needed to rent the space not because however awesome handwriting triggered their need for renting the space.
Second, what was the expectation of performance? From the eyes of my parents and other people who had not learned to use brush pen, my writing was good enough to serve both purposes. This is also the case in the workplace. It is not about the ultimate perfection I have in my mind, but it is about what the clients need and expect.
Third, why me? There must be millions of people in China who can write better calligraphy than I. But I was the most convenient and available person to my parents. It was also my pleasure to be helpful to them. Likewise in the workplace or the school, you may feel that you don't deserve some position by breaking down the skills sets and comparing them to the top experts in the field. In many cases, however, everything works together to make you the best candidate, such as timing, your availability, your good enough skill sets, your good personality, and your connection to this employer.
We often do not know what the next life tasks will be. But given our best judgement, whatever we end up getting, work with conscientiousness and be thankful. Improvement is a life-long process, and completion is better than perfection.
This year is my first time attending the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) annual conference as a non-student, since I graduated in December 2016. No more student registration discount, no more student volunteer position, and no more student travel fund; so sad :(. Fortunately, my postdoc salary is enough to support me now. ;)
This is my first time presenting two posters at the same time. Luckily, they were next to each other.
This was also my first time attending the "Posters with Fellow". My Ph.D. advisor Dr. Doug Gillan told me about this in previous years, but I was either not aware of it or too busy attending other talks or preparing my presentations. This year, my own posters were done early, and indeed being a postdoc was less anxious than being a doctoral student. So I had checked the conference program before I arrived and scheduled this session into my agenda. Normally, it is hard to have a chance to talk to these experts due to lack of a reason, busy schedule, and not recognizing the faces though knowing the names. It was such a great educational opportunity to talk to these experts face-to-face, and tens of fellows were waiting to talk to us/me. What an privilege and honor! There was so much to learn from them. One hour was just too short.
My first time being a session chair was fun. I chaired the CE14 Perception and Effort on Performance session. It was fun interacting with speakers and the audience. I learned so much more by reading their papers ahead of time, and my position allowed to ask as many questions as I wanted and it was appropriate. The audience also asked many good questions. Asking good questions is a really important skill.
I also attended the "Women in Human Factors" social event and "Mentoring" program for the first time, as well as the "past president talk." The technical talks were highly relevant to my research interests. I did feel that people in the Human Factors society are very human-centered and user friendly. They have tried all kinds of ways to meet the participants' social, logistics, and educational needs, and they turned out quite effective. I enjoyed the conference a lot.
Today hundreds of postdocs at Duke had a full day training on research conduct. We had excellent speakers and panelists from NC State, UNC, and Duke. Breakfast, coffee, lunch, and cookies provided. Seeing the University make great effort to train young researchers to follow the ethical research principles and to provide resources for us to deal with difficult situations in academia, such as academic misconduct, authorship, mentoring, individual development plan, and peer review, I felt honored to be a postdoc at Duke sitting in the room.
When I was in kindergarten and primary school, I often watched my two older brothers play video games. Through small battles, they gained experiences and collected treasures to equip their characters with super power and weapons, in order to fight the monster at the final stage. The training I am getting now and everyday was just like the power and weapons in the video games. The difference is that my battles are in the academic field in the real world.
Another interesting thing was to observe hundreds of postdocs sitting in the same room for 8 hours. In normal days, I felt we work like moles in each individual's cave, not knowing anyone or seeing anyone outside the department. This training event gave me a sense of community because they were just like me, fighting the same battles day and night. I was empowered to keep on going.
This is the best robot demo I have ever seen.
To run the human subject experiment for the drone control interface simulation system, we went to FAA Greensboro Airport Control tower. After we finished the experiment with Thomas, it was such an honor for us to visit their low altitude air traffic control center room, high altitude air traffic control tower, and air traffic control simulation. I read a few papers about air traffic control before, but this is absolutely the very first time in my life to see an air traffic control center in person.
So far, I have visited a rail dispatcher center and an airplane traffic control center. The HAIER project is controlling underwater robot, and this experiment van is a drone traffic control commend center simulation. I guess my next step should be to visit a driver less car dispatcher center when it comes to exist.
On August 7 evening, IEEE Robotics and Autonomy local chapter hosted a meeting highlighting the ENCS Humanoid Robot project and the STEM opportunities at the Forge Initiative.
Based on the IEEE mission and vision of creating in-house IEEE member experts in Robotics and Automation, Grayson's efforts had triggered "IEEE ENCS Humanoid Robot Project". Daniel McDonald, the lead developer of the project, provided a demo and walk-through of the current humanoid system design detail and future plans. The Forge initiative, a local STEM non profit, provides the opportunity for the project reach the community. The meeting demonstrated all five versions of the humanoid robot KEN.
During the meeting, Mahesh Balasubramaniam, IEEE ENCS RA24 Chair had an overview of IEEE and the cool projects IEEE does. As part of the illustration, Mahesh mentioned the RoboCup soccer tournament happened a week ago in Japan. It was shocking for me to see the NimbRo team on the screen because this is the only team at the RoboCup that I know the developers of the team. NimbRo did such a great job that they are known everywhere in the world now. I wish them well in all their endeavors.
Overall, it is a great event. The next step is to advance the technology, sustain the project, and use it to benefit more people.
The HAL team attended the ONR meeting in DC this week. It was my first time presenting at a program review meeting, and it was also the first time officially presenting the experiment results of the Human-Autonomy Interface for Exploration of Risks (HAIER) project. The ONR meeting was almost mind-blowing everyday and meanwhile mentally exhausting. So many interesting topics, but I did not understand many of them when it came to technical issues. Most of other teams were from Engineering and Computer Science background, with only a few from Psychology.
On the last day, we also visited the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the equipment in this room was a simulation for the engineer's control room in a train. Great thanks to Mike and Chris' facilitation. Now we all had some experience driving a train.
This visit was especially meaningful to me because I visited a railroad dispatcher center in February and learned how dispatchers interact with different parties, including conductors, PTC, line up signals for engineers, etc. This time I saw the effect of dispatchers' work from an train engineer's perspective. Now I can better connect dispatchers' work model and engineer's work model.
Before the trip, I did not know that Duke has a marine lab at the Morehead City beach on an island. It was such a beautiful place for site seeing, seafood, and with great research facilities. It is on the beach but so much more than a regular beach. In addition to the beautiful beach view and beach life style, the rich natural resources and people's passion in marine research make the campus such a unique place, which makes me appreciate more how people can live a meaningful life where they do great work with their identified talents and interests, instead of worrying about whether your university/program/major is the best in others' eyes.
Here is the link to the Marine lab: https://nicholas.duke.edu/marinelab
Meanwhile, our research trip itself was also memorable and adventurous enough. :D Long story...
On July 5th, eight members of our lab (Humans and Autonomy Lab; HAL) had a tour at North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR). NCCAR is an independent, non-profit center that provides high quality facility and race track for automotive product development, research, and training. Sam True, Operations Manager, patiently gave us an informative introduction of the history, layout, and facilitates of the center, and we experienced the race car for the first time in our lives, at a speed of 60+miles per hour when turning. It was such a privilege to go on this tour and meet Sam.
On the 620-acre site, NCCAR is home to a two mile bi-directional road course, a two acre vehicle dynamics area, a seven acre dirt facility and 3 mile dirt trails for trucks or side by sides, and 6 plus miles of ATV and dirt bike trails.
The second annual Duke Robotics Student Symposium was held in conjunction with National Robotics Week on 14 April 2017. Amazon Robotics was the Keynote Speaker and sponsor. Professors, professionals, and students showcased their work on robotics related topics. Several high school robotics teams came to the event. Demonstration of drones, Unnamed Arial Vehicle Simulation, Unmanned Underwater Robot Simulation, and Baxter robots attracted much attention. It was a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and network with regional peers. There was free tickets to the Durham Bulls minor league baseball game that night.
On April 8, 2017, Humans and Autonomy Lab (HAL) was invited to participate in the Duke Alumni Weekend Science Festival. We drove our van to the backyard of the French science building, and set up our station of Duke Robotics and Drones. Haibei and Yuansong prepared the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) simulation game and the Underwater Robot simulation game in the van for people to play. I had the balloon powered helicopters for kids and families to play and learn the idea of drone. The reusable whistle equipped helicopter was a huge hit. All 80 helicopters were gone in less than one hour. Kids loved it. Parents and even grandparents loved it too because they all played it together and some younger kids needed help from adults to blow the balloons. It was also great fun to watch kids enjoy their time playing. Inside the building, other department groups also had interesting science stations for children to play and explore.
"HRI 2017 is the 12th Annual Conference for basic and applied human-robot interaction research. Researchers from across the world attend and submit their best work to HRI to exchange ideas about the latest theories, technology, data, and videos furthering the state-of-the-art in human-robot interaction."
HRI 2015 was my first time going to the conference, and it was in Portland, OR in the US. This year it was held in Vienna, Austria. To this conference I submitted a full paper, a late-breaking report, and student volunteer application all for the first time. It was the first time ever in my life that I had as many as 5 reviewers gave me feedback on my full paper submission and plus a rebuttal. I lost the fierce battle but the experience was helpful for me to improve my paper. My late-breaking report about "A qualitative analysis of self-determination theory in robotics tournaments" was accepted. Several people stopped by my poster and asked really good questions; we all benefited from the discussion. I enjoyed learning other people's cool ideas and meeting talented and interesting people.
After three months of waiting for my work permission, I officially started my new job as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University on February 13. And the orientation was arranged to be the Valentine's Day at the beautiful Duke Garden. Receiving my ID card was the most exciting thing that day, because it gave me the access to the lab area myself without others' assistance.
With all my academic training in Psychology, who would have guessed that someday I work as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Engineering. Well, it did happen, though it takes courage to recognize and embrace my role in a bigger picture. My Ph.D. degree is in Human Factors and Applied Cognition, which deals with Human-Machine Interface, and my research interest in Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) drives me to do interdisciplinary research at Duke Robotics. It is important to understand how to design the robots and technologies to be more efficient, intuitive, and easy for people to use, therefore, my expertise in Human Factors can help with their research on HRI. It makes sense in a way. I carefully look forward to the year of postdoc life in Engineering.
I am greatly thankful for all those who have encouraged me and helped me in the past five years to finish my Ph.D. degree.
Oct 14 was a big day. I successfully defended my dissertation, "Intrinsic motivation and Self-determination theory in Robotics Tournaments." Five years of hard work paid off. I felt such a big relief. I am very thankful for all those who have prayed, encouraged, helped, and congratulated me.
Dr. Elliot Inman is a Manager of Software Development for SAS® Solutions OnDemand. He competed his undergraduate degrees in the English Department (BA, Fall 1989) and Psychology Department (BA, Spring 1991) at NC State University, and he earned a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Kentucky in 1997. Over the past 25 years, he has analyzed a wide variety of data in areas as diverse as the effectiveness of print and digital advertising, social service outcomes analysis, healthcare claims analysis, employee safety, educational achievement, clinical trial monitoring, sales forecasting, risk-scoring and fraud analytics, general survey analysis, performance benchmarking, product pricing, text processing, and basic scientific research on human memory and cognitive processes.
On September 28, 2016 Dr. Inman came back to NC State and gave a series of RED talks about data science, including an introduction of “Quantification: The Art of Making Data” and three workshops: "The Art of Making Data: Quantifying Touch" , "The Art of Making Data: Quantifying Sound", and "The Art of Making Data: Quantifying Attitudes and Emotions". It was very encouraging for me to see a Psychology alumnus doing so well in the industry. Analyses of interactions and emotions are also one of the most important aspects of my own research and I wanted to learn more. So I attended all four events, even though it was two weeks before my dissertation defense.
One of the take-home messages I got is that: "Doing data science can make a good living, but what is more important is how can we use data science to make a difference in the world". The subject, data science, could be replaced by my research on Human–Robot Interaction (HRI).
More information about talks can be found here:
After Dr. Inman's talk, I introduced myself and my research on HRI to him. His English is so good that he later shared with me three Haiku about HRI, which is very neat. I got his permission to post them on my blog as below:
Three Haiku for a Social Psychology of the Future
Limbs of steel and motor heart
Made in our image.
Humans and robots
Bandura meets Asimov
But who's watching who?
Robbie the Robot
More humane than a human
Saves Bobo the Doll.
Elliot Inman, Ph.D.
I presented a new study, "Group Interactions with Robots in a Robotics Tournament", at a workshop at the RO-MAN 2016 conference at Columbia University. Marlena (the middle picture), a doctoral student, co-organized the workshop. That was impressive to me.
This was my first time attending RO-MAN. There were a good variety of studies in the human–robot interaction area. It was very nice to make friends from all around the world.
Professor Mary (Missy) Cummings kindly invited me to give a talk about my research in her Humans and Autonomy lab at Duke University. I presented the three aspects of my HRI research vision—responses, design, and education—with an example of my corresponding studies at each aspect. Most of the students were in an engineering program, so my research from psychological perspective was quite different from what they had been doing. Lab people were very friendly and intelligent. My talk finished within 30 minutes sharp, and the discussions finished within 1 hour sharp. I was happy about the timing and good discussions. I felt such an honor to present my research at Missy's lab in Duke University.
If you like robotics, you should not miss this event. Friday is targeted at professional with a number of exciting talks. Saturday is targeted at STEM K-12 robotics. Bring your kids to see robots and to encourage them in the engineering fields. Sign up today. Free to attend.
"RoboResearch 2016 is a two day event, jointly sponsored by the North Carolina Council of IEEE and Industrial & Systems Engineering at NC State University. The objective for the first day is to promote interaction between the North Carolina Business community and it Universities, while the second focuses more on promoting STEM to help a new generation of innovators. We invite robotics researchers from the educational community as well as robotics researchers and designers from industries throughout North Carolina.
Attendees will meet other researchers and designers in the same and related fields. We are hoping that members of our local industries will be introduced to the inter-relationship with the educational institutes in our State so that some day they may be able to work together toward common goals."
More information could be found here: http://sites.ieee.org/ncc-roboresearch/
After Event Notes
Today turned out to be Bill's last day (likely) at the Humanoid Robot Project team. I did not know it until he told me that at the end of the meeting. Bill Howdeshell is a professor at ECPI in Raleigh. He made really cool eyeballs and eyelids for the Humanoid Robot KEN. He is a very kind and encouraging person. I knew he would be leaving by the end of the spring term, but it was unexpected to be so soon.
When I was getting my research survey ready for the robot builders and their robots, I thought of one similarity and one difference between the work of a human factors researcher and that of an engineer.
Lixiao Huang, a human factors scientist who is enthusiastic about human-robot interaction research.