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DTI Human-Computer Interaction group will help TalTech to facilitate a Human-Robot Interaction Lab in Virumaa College

At the beginning of November, a new research project started between the Human-Computer Interaction group of Tallinn University, the School of Digital Technologies, and Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech). The main aim of the 5,5-year project is to set up a Human-Robot Interaction laboratory in Virumaa College which will serve local industry and help students and teachers get more familiar with the Human-Robot Interaction topic.

Project coordinator from Tallinn University, School of Digital Technologies Associate Professor of Interaction Design Sonia Sousa mentions that HCI groups’ main aim in the project is to share their expertise in Human-Computer Interaction.

“We will focus on 2 aspects: user-experience evolution and human-robot trusting. Our contribution to the project will be forwarded to a human-centered approach towards technology and Human-Robot Interaction”, - says Sousa.

While the HCI group will bring Human-Computer Interaction expertise into the focus, TalTech will be responsible for the technical one.

But in addition to creating and facilitating a Lab, the project has one more important goal. With the increasing use of technologies nowadays, the modern industry faces challenges in finding the best ways for human-robot interaction in workplaces, enabling robots to realize optimal solutions by combining AI and human capabilities. The project aims to contribute to the automation of company production processes, focusing on the social and psychological aspects of human-robot collaboration to ensure that human workers in the industry feel safe and satisfied. Research directions include: creating a collaborative robotics experimental lab; designing robotized workplaces; modeling human-robot interaction, assessments, and analysis of influencing factors and risks.

This is accompanied by several challenges, opportunities, and threats, which the scientific community together with various practitioners should anticipate and also solve in a functioning cooperation of the public-private sector.

“Therefore, to reflect the modern industry and the biggest challenge of development activities is to find the best ways for human and robot/device/technology to work together in workplaces, where the development topics will be a modern work environment, workplace learning including new learning and teaching methods and psychological aspects of Human-Machine co-creation. This set of activities requires consideration of the balance between man and machine in all possibilities of knowledge transfer”,- says Chief Expert of Business Partnership at Tallinn University Ingrid Hindrikson.

HCI group of the School of Digital Technologies will also provide educational and training opportunities for students, researchers, and professionals in Virumaa College. The group will try to help understand how to deal with the complexities of human-robot collaboration (COBOTS) in industrial settings by targeting the nature of trusting characteristics as a key element to fostering and calibrating user experiences (UX) between humans and machines.

Some of the researchers from the School of Digital Technologies will contribute to the project as well: a researcher Mati Mõttus will collaborate with colleagues from TalTech in building the user experience Lab to evaluate/study human-robot interactions. M. Mõttus will also teach and train staff, and students and will co-supervise PhD students. A junior researcher Mustafa Can Özdemir will support the research work in the Lab and will participate in teaching and training activities. Associate Professor of Interaction Design Sonia Sousa will lead the research in further advance in the Human-Robot trust research and will co-supervise PhD students. Chief Expert of Business Partnership in TLÜ Ingrid Hindrikson will be fostering collaboration with local industry. From the TalTech side in the project are involved project coordinator Jüri Riives, Senior Lecturer Olga Dunaeva, director of Ida-Virumaa College Mare Roosileht, and Tenured Full Professor Jüri Majak.

The project is supported by the lead of the HCI group, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction David Lamas, director of the School of Digital Technologies Peeter Normak; partnership cooperation is supported by Head of Knowledge Transfer and Project Support Office Aja Sakova and Chief Expert of Business Partnership in TLÜ Ingrid Hindrikson. Project activities are supported by ÕÜF (Just Transition Fund), and 10% of self-financing requirements are fulfilled by the HCI group of the School of Digital Technologies. The research group's activities are supported by 175,000 euros from the fund.

The contributors to the idea are prof Tauno Otto (TalTech); Associate Professor of Interaction Design Sonia Sousa and Chief Expert of Business Partnership at Tallinn University Ingrid Hindrikson (TLU).

Expected results from the project are methodologies and validated human-robot interaction models, skills for their implementation, impact factors and risk assessments, and a developed laboratory with hardware, software, and expertise; providing user-centered design solutions services. All of this will lead to safer human-robot interactions, increasing user trust in robotic systems.


The author of the text is Tatevik Meliksetyan, a marketing and communication specialist at Tallinn University's School of Digital Technologies.


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