My PhD student, Merel Jung, became a doctor today by successfully defending her PhD thesis, “Socially Intelligent Robots that Understand and Respond to Human Touch”. You can read more about her work in this article (in Dutch). Or by looking up her publications of course.
From the introduction: “People express themselves through social signals in the form of verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Touch is one of the important nonverbal forms of social interaction as are visual cues such as facial expressions, gaze, body posture and air gestures . However, compared to vision and audition (as in vocal cues), interpersonal touch does not generally receive much research attention yet [40, 50]. Similarly, the touch modality is of- ten overlooked in human-computer interaction such as remote commu- nication and in interactions with embodied or virtual agents . As interactions with social robots are likely to become more common in the near future these robots are expected to engage in tactile interaction with humans . Therefore the aim of the research presented in this disserta- tion is to work towards socially intelligent robots that can understand and respond to human touch.”