Events & exhibitions

Charismatic Robots in Everyday Human Spaces

  • Tuesday, May 10, 2022
    1 PM ET
  • Online on Zoom
Heather Knight posing with robot's arm around her shoulders.
Photo courtesy of Heather Knight

Heather Knight will present work from the Collaborative Humans and Robotics: Interaction, Sociability, Machine learning and Art (CHARISMA) robotics lab at Oregon State University (OSU). The pandemic has brought increasing automation into everyday human spaces, making ever more relevant CHARISMA’s work in service robots, expressive communication, and autonomous and human-in-the-loop robot behavior systems. Using examples from 20 years in the field, this talk illustrates how technology designers can repeatedly leverage human-inspired communication systems into robot perception and enactment systems that can add social and functional value to robots operating with, for, and around humans. From robot furniture to robot comedy—and from nonverbal expressions to the cultural situation of robots operating around people in factories, workplaces, and sidewalks—CHARISMA contributes to the fields of human-robot interaction and social robotics, regularly deploying robots in naturalistic human settings and entertainment contexts.


Heather Knight is an assistant professor of computer science and runs the CHARISMA robotics research group at OSU, which applies methods from entertainment to the development of more effective and charismatic robots. The group’s research interests include minimal social robots, multi-robot/multi-human social interaction, and entertainment robots. Knight completed a postdoc at Stanford University exploring minimal robots and autonomous car interfaces and a PhD in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University exploring expressive motion for low degree-of-freedom robots. She also holds an MS in electrical engineering and a BS in computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she developed a sensate skin for a robot teddy bear at the MIT Media Lab. Knight has worked on robotics and instrumentation at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and on sensor design at Aldebaran Robotics. She spent nine years producing an annual Robot Film Festival, which she founded, exploring positive storytelling about robots. Knight also gave a TED talk about robot comedy, helped create a robot flower garden installation at the Smithsonian/Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and created a two-floor Rube Goldberg machine for OK GO's "This Too Shall Pass" music video, which received a British Video Music Award. 


Edo Berger, codirector of the science program at Harvard Radcliffe Institute; professor of astronomy, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Harvard Radcliffe Institute gratefully acknowledges the following funds that are supporting this event:
Mary E. and Clara Z. Costanza Fund for Science
Melanie Mason and David W. Niemiec Fund for Science

Event Video

Heather Knight posing with robot's arm around her shoulders.

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