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Turning Assistive Machines into Assistive Robots

Brenna Argall
February 10, 2015 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Building 550, Room 200


Special Robotics Seminar

Bring your own lunch, we will provide dessert!

Prof. Brenna Argall
Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Northwestern University

Title: Turning Assistive Machines into Assistive Robots


For decades, the potential for automation — in particular, in the form of smart wheelchairs — to aid those with motor, or cognitive, impairments has been recognized. It is a paradox that often the more severe a person's motor impairment, the more challenging it is for them to operate the very assistive machines which might enhance their quality of life. A primary aim of my lab is to address this confound by incorporating robotics autonomy and intelligence into assistive machines — turning the machine into a kind of robot, and offloading some of the control burden from the user. Robots already synthetically sense, act in and reason about the world, and these technologies can be leveraged to help bridge the gap left by sensory, motor or cognitive impairments in the users of assistive machines. This talk will overview some of the ongoing projects in my lab, which strives to advance human ability through robotics autonomy.


Brenna Argall is the June and Donald Brewer Junior Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at Northwestern University, and also an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. She holds a Research Scientist position at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), where she directs the assistive & rehabilitation robotics laboratory (argallab). Prior to joining Northwestern and RIC, she was a postdoctoral fellow (2009-2011) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Her Ph.D. in Robotics (2009) was received from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, as well as her M.S. in Robotics (2006) and B.S. in Mathematics (2002). She held a Computational Biology position in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prior to graduate school. Her research interests lay at the intersection of robotics, machine learning and rehabilitation.