Robotic Smiles

Robotic Smiles

Hala the roboceptionist

Robotic Smiles

Amna AlZeyara

Making a robot smile can be a complex process.

Amna AlZeyara (CS'14) has been working to help Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar's roboceptionist, Hala, show expressions such as surprise.

For her work AlZeyara won the undergraduate research competition at the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Minneapolis.

"To make a robot smile, the action units need to be adjusted accordingly," AlZeyara said, referring to the activity that occurs in human muscles to produce different facial expressions. Hala's programming allows for similar controls. A slight tweak of the 3D animated robot's eyebrows, eyes, cheeks or mouth can turn a look of sadness into one of happiness or anger.

Hala interacts with visitors to Carnegie Mellon Qatar. AlZeyara is working on identifying and developing a series of facial expressions, which help engage users by enhancing the non-verbal aspects of human-robot communication.

"Amna has taken on increasingly challenging research projects during her time at CMU-Q. We have all witnessed her remarkable development into a serious researcher, and she is the first CMU-Q student who has been honored twice for her research accomplishments," said Kemal Oflazer, director of the Computer Science Program at Carnegie Mellon Qatar.

"When one of your students is recognized in this manner in a tough competition against many similarly qualified candidates from around the world, we have every reason to be proud. This brings tremendous visibility to CMU-Q Computer Science program and its accomplishments."

AlZeyara has traveled twice to the conference.

"Each time it has been an amazing opportunity to meet other women and learn from leaders in the field," she said. "I am very excited to be selected as one of the student winners, and it has inspired me to continue my hard work toward becoming a computer scientist."

After graduation, AlZeyara plans to finish her master's degree and then work as a researcher.

"We are very proud of Amna, who has shown us with this award that she is among the best and brightest computer science students — not only in Qatar and the region, but across globe," said Ilker Baybars, dean of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar.

Organized by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery, the Grace Hopper Conference is one of the most prestigious technical conventions for women in computing, bringing both their research achievements and career interests to the forefront.

Related Links: Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar | Carnegie Mellon Qatar Computer Science | Hala | Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing | Anita Borg Institute | The Link "Saying Hala to Hala"

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