More information about ASU research can be found here:
Here is an empowering video, ASU Challenges, on my job orientation day on Oct 8th, 2018:
Nancy is giving an introduction.
NASA Data Fusion Project
MineCraft Project: Human-Robot Teaming on a search and rescue task
Synthetic Teammate Project
Cyber Deception Project
HFES2018 conference at Philadelphia, PA. Presenting concluded last week. Learning new trends/methods, and networking are always the top three businesses at conferences.
I gave a talk on "Preliminary Analysis and Simulation of Railroad Dispatcher Workload". Surprisingly, the paper received the Best Paper Award at the Human Performance Modeling technical group. Thanks to coauthors Dr. Cummings, Victoria Nneji, and other contributors. Several people came to me after the talk, saying there has not been much literature on railroad dispatchers. There is definitely potential along this line of research.
During the conference, I used key words like Human-Robot Interaction, Team(ing), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Human-Machine Interaction to search for talks related to Human, AI, and Robot Teaming. Four sessions were specifically found on this topic and each session was filled with attendees, which indicated the rising interest of the public on this topic.
Networking happens naturally at the conference reception, when catching up with friends and colleagues during the conference, at university social events, at the HF women lunch, at the poster sessions (including regular poster session and posters with fellows), after giving a talk, at the session that I co-chair, at small-group discussion sessions, and even on the train to the airport. People are friendly and supportive, especially at HFES conferences.
I did not plan any sightseeing this time. The only two things I remember are the Reading Terminal Market next to the conference hotel and the outside of the Museum of American Revolution near my hotel. Maybe next time I should plan something ahead.
I will be an Assistant Research Scientist at Arizona State University starting in September 2018, in the Center for Humans, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot teaming, affiliated with the office of Global Security Initiative. I will work with Drs. Nancy Cooke and Spring Berman. My primary roles will be writing research grants and conducting experiments on the research platforms with human subjects. It is an interdisciplinary team and bears many great opportunities for human factors and human-robot interaction research.
I have stayed in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina for 7 years and this has become my second hometown. Thanks to my host family, friends, colleagues, and professors for all the support and care along my journey.
The Pedestrian App experiment is finished, and our team celebrated at the Duke University Commons, right next to the Duke Chapel. It was the most challenging research project that I have ever conducted as of this point of my life. When I have time, I will write more about the journey.
The experiment was conducted at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research NCCAR (NCCAR) in Garysburg, NC, two hours away from Duke University. This professional race track facility enables us to control the traffic conditions without any random passing cars or pedestrians. To use this facility, we had to work with the availability of the track. Our data collection team had 8 people and all need to be available the whole time. We also need to check the availability of participants. It was not worth the cost to make the trip with less than three participants signing up for each day. We cannot collect data when the weather was rainy or two windy.
Because the experiment site was so far away from our lab, we first tried to recruit participants from the local community by sending hundreds of recruitment letters to nearby organizations, including churches, grocery stores, police department, fire department, community colleges, etc. However, we had a very low response from people. With the permission from Walmart managers, our team spent two evenings talking to random customers about our research inside the store and at the entrance of the store. We had some luck getting people from Walmart, but that was still not enough.
Then we were suggested to recruit participants from Duke University. Due to the long distance, we offered rides to participants. They had to leave with us at 7 am or 8 am in the morning and return around 7 pm in the evening. The compensation was $25. We had to have at least three participants on one day to make the trip. We asked our friends to spread the word. Surprisingly, we got some participants from NC State and UNC Chapel Hill. In other words, the project involved three universities, with participants from four distant cities with a relatively low compensation.
On the night before the last day of data collection, we had great difficulty finding the third participant to make the trip the next day. I had to make a decision whether to cancel the trip and reschedule the two people who has already signed up. Right before we gave up, someone agreed to go. On the next morning, when I was driving to the experiment site, another driver called me that one of the students changed his mind and did not want to go that morning, meaning we would need to make one more trip to just collect data for one extra person. Luckily, the director of NCCAR, Sam, helped us find another person to make up the vacancy so that we finished the data collection that day.
Other incidents and difficulties also happened during the experiment.
What a great memory!
You are invited to participate in a one-hour study by researchers at Duke University's Humans and Autonomy Lab. In this study, you will play with an app that alerts you of oncoming traffic. Your safety will be ensured. We will record your reactions to and opinions of the app.
Your participation will contribute to our pedestrian safety research and will be greatly appreciated. We will pay you $25 for participating in the study.
The experiment will take place between June 8th and June 13th, 2018, at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR), at 301 Technology Dr., Garysburg, NC 27831. Please also contact us if you are interested but only available in late June or early July.
Participants must be over 18 years old, with 20/20 vision or corrected to normal vision, no mobility impairments, and use a smartphone on a daily basis.
Click here to sign up for an appointment (or use this link: http://signup.com/go/EptbkZr)
1) Review the time options listed on the link
2) Choose the spot you like
If you have any questions or need to cancel an appointment with us, please contact Scott Brummel at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lixiao Huang at email@example.com. Thank you for your help!
Lixiao Huang, Ph.D.
Humans and Autonomy Laboratory (HAL)
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Big conferences between 2012 and 2017 that I still remember:
On my way back from lunch, I walked through the Department of Computer Science at Duke and saw this wall of mailbox. Unlike metal or plastic doors at any resident housing I had seen before, these mailbox have transparent glass doors, so that you can easily tell whether there is anything in your mailbox without opening it. What a clever design! The lock at each glassdoor also gives users an option whether to lock it.
From Dr. George Gopen's one-day writing workshop, I learned amazing psychology of readers. More specifically, readers process information in a certain way when reading scientific work, and therefore, if we write as they expect, we can make a strong case, and it is easier for readers to read. For each sentence, we should be clear about the subject of the sentence, keep the verb close to the subject, provide a link to the old information, and stress new important information in the end of a sentence. The structure is fixed, but the substance for positions in the structure can be moved and has to be decided by the writer. The decision of the flow and what to stress makes each individual's work unique. The message seems so simple, but overcoming unconscious bad writing habit and practicing this principle takes a long way.
Together with a few other authors' helpful writing books, this workshop enhanced my belief that scientific writing skill can be trained. It is a pleasure to make sense of things and make one step closer to good communication. Thank you, Dr. Gopen.
From Feb 8 to April 10, I had an unexpected leave from my work at Duke due to my visa issue. This misfortune turned into blessings in many ways.
First, my audit student Sarah Park, also our Engineering Librarian, stepped up to help me lead the seminar, Trust in Autonomy, so that my students did not have to drop the class at the point of passing the drop deadline.
Second, many friends came to help me pack my belongings so that I was able to get everything ready to leave in about one week. In case I were not able to come back when my apartment lease were due in the end of May, one friend offered to store my belongs in her garage.
Third, I got the opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year on Feb 16 with my family in China for the first time in the past 10 years. Chinese New Year (using the lunar calendar) is always during the Spring semester in the US, so I was not able to go home ever since I came to the US in 2007. I wished that I had spent more time with my new nephew and niece, and then my dream came true in this interesting way.
Fourth, my high school classmate, Dr. Zhu, found me at my hometown, Wenzhou, and invited me to help him with his Child-Robot Interaction project to educate k-12 children with artificial intelligence. His new company has a 30-year mother company, Yalong, famous in producing vocational robotics training equipment in China. Below is the video intro of the company.
Fifth, when I was in China, I was able to submit my long-waited journal paper based on my dissertation to the International Journal of Social Robotics.
Sixth, I also got several job interviews and two job offers during my leave. When I finish my postdoctoral position at Duke University, I will have a place to go for my next step.
There are many more blessings in my life in the midst of my big trouble. I am just grateful that life is still full of faith, hope, and love.
Jan 25-26, 2018 Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) Workshop on Robots Young Children and Alternative Input Methods
It was an honor and great experience working with Prof. Yanghee Kim to co-organize the child-robot interaction workshop at Northern Illinois University. The presenters were big experts in child-robot interaction research areas, such as speech recognition, image processing, human-robot interaction design, and learning theories. I learned a lot from all of them and especially liked Prof. Cynthia Breazeal's personalized robot design. In the near future, I would like to test out a few ideas about personalized robot design.
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...
Lixiao Huang, a human factors scientist who is enthusiastic about human-robot interaction research.