UTA Theater Prof Will Use Robot in Study on Human-Machine Connection

UTA professor Julienne Greer will use an autonomous humanoid robot in an upcoming study exploring the connection between humans and machines.

Bucket edition

It’s probably not too often that a professor can say they got a new student that’s a robot, but assistant professor Julienne Greer at the University of Texas at Arlington can officially check that one off her bucket list. 

Greer, a professor in the university’s theater department, specializes in an interdisciplinary research area called theater and social robotics that explores how robots can reflect human emotion by applying traditional acting methods, the Dallas Observer reported. And Nao the autonomous humanoid robot, which was developed in France and Japan, recently became one of her theater students. 

Greer is planning to conduct a research study using Nao the robot to interact with seniors at an assisted living community.

“They’re on the vanguard of this interaction between humans and machines because they’re already living their lives with machines being a part of it whether that is an artificial pancreas or whether that’s a wheelchair,” she told the Observer.

For the experiment, Greer will have Nao communicate with the seniors and read the first 12 lines of a 14-line sonnet to them once a week for three weeks. On the third week, the participants will be asked to complete the last two lines of the sonnet. The goal is to help spark creativity in the older adults. 

“That’s my expertise, so I’m encouraging the participants to act with the robot,” she said. “It’s that interaction that we’re interested in measuring to see if it’s provided some well-being.”

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