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Photo: Privat
Agnieszka Wykowska, new Chaired Professor in Technical Psychology at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Private View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Merited professor in social robotics

Published: 29 January 2016

Social robots that will be used to assist individuals diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder or in care for the elderly need to be designed with a behaviour that the human brain can understand and recognize. This is Agnieszka Wykowska’s research focus. She is a new, chaired professor in Engineering Psychology and starts at Luleå university of Technology in spring 2016.

Agnieszka Wykowska is a researcher at the Technical University Munich and a lecturer at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Her research focuses on examining social cognition in human-human and human-robot interactions. The aim of her research is to pinpoint specific cognitive mechanisms of the human brain evoked in social interactions, in order to be able to design social robots with a behaviour that the human brain can understand and recognize.

– If robots are to be among us in our daily lives, we need to be able to socially attune with them. This is possible only when robots' social behavior is intuitively recognizable for us and appears natural, as for example, in the case of appropriate length of eye contact in different types of social interactions, says Agnieszka Wykowska.

Social robots can help children end elderly

Robotic pet-like animals covered with synthetic fur can be used in elderly care to offer companionship, and can be equipped with sensors to monitor the general wellbeing of the elderly. Other types of social robots can be used to train various skills in preschool children and children diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder.

– It has been shown that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder respond to humanoid robots with a lot of interest. This gives caregivers and therapists an opportunity to use robots to train social skills, for example, joint attention or emotion recognition, or also use robots as mediators between the caregivers and the children.

Lays the foundation to new research area at the university

Agnieszka Wykowska joins her new team at Luleå University of Technology on 1 March. She looks forward to establishing a lab where the interaction between humans and robots can be examined, and to find new stimulating collaborative projects with researchers at Luleå university of Technology in the related field of human-machine interaction.

– The position that I applied for at Luleå university of Technology is exactly what I have been looking for: stimulating environment, opportunity to pursue the area of research of my interest, good infrastructure, and most importantly – great colleagues!

– To move to Luleå feels like a great adventure and an opportunity to grow and develop both professionally and personally in a new environment. I am aware that winters are cold and a bit dark but I find people in Luleå extremely warm. Furthermore, I like snow and winter and I am excited to experience dog sledding adventures, aurora borealis, cross-country skiing and skating on the frozen river. And then, here are the magnificent beautiful summers, something that I can’t wait to experience! I am very happy to be a part of Luleå university of Technology soon and I have already learned the concept of “fika”, a tradition that I am eager to experience, concludes Agnieszka Wykowska with a smile.