Reid Simmons-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Reid Simmons

simmons photo

Robotics Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Newell-Simon Hall, 3205
reids @

Reid Gordon Simmons is a research professor in the School of Computer Science and the associate director for education in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon. He earned his B.A. degree in 1979 in computer science from SUNY at Buffalo and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from MIT in 1983 and 1988, respectively, in the field of artificial intelligence. Since coming to Carnegie Mellon in 1988, Professor Simmons' research has focused on developing self-reliant robots that can autonomously operate over extended periods of time in unknown, unstructured environments. This work involves issues of robot control architectures that combine deliberative and reactive control, probabilistic planning and reasoning, monitoring and fault detection, and robust indoor and outdoor navigation. More recently, Professor Simmons has focused on the areas of human-robot social interaction, coordination of multiple heterogeneous robots and formal verification of autonomous systems. Over the years, he has been involved in the development of over a dozen autonomous robots, including the social robots Grace and Valerie. Professor Simmons has published over 150 papers and articles in the areas of robotics and artificial intelligence. He won the Newell Research Award in 2004 and was part of the Remote Agent team that won the 1999 NASA Software of the Year Award.
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"I would like to apply the extensive work we've done in human-robot social interaction to the area of quality of life. As technology gets more sophisticated, it also tends to get more difficult to use. This is especially true for the elderly and those with cognitive disabilities -- technology that could potentially make their lives better may not be used, or not used effectively, if the users are uncertain, or even fearful, of how to interact with the technology. One way to alleviate those concerns is to make the technology more "social," whereby that I mean cognizant of the goals and intentions of the user. This "socialability" can be evidenced by having the technology infer the users' goals and actively help to carry them out, offering suggestions, preventing the user from misusing the technology, and presenting a friendly and soothing "face" (perhaps literally) on the technology. For instance, a "socially aware" microwave might understand what the user is trying to do (defrost, boil water, make popcorn, change the clock) and offer guidance if it sees that the user is not performing the right set of actions, or has forgotten to retrieve the item after it is done, etc. Similar arguments can be made for medical equipment, which may be very foreign to users and where the fear of doing something wrong might prevent them from using the equipment at all."