Human-Computer Interaction Lab hosts annual open house

For many people, the word “robot” calls to mind images from science fiction or fantasy.  But for members of the Department of Computer Sciences’ Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Laboratory, robots aren’t exotic or futuristic; they’re an increasingly important part of computing—and society at large.

To connect the public with the possibilities and fascinating science behind robots, the HCI Lab is hosting a Robotics Open House on Friday, April 10, 2015, from 2 to 5 p.m. (room 3351, Computer Sciences Building, 1210 W. Dayton St.).

The event is free and open to all ages.  It is structured as a drop-in event with various interactive stations.  Kids, parents and teachers are especially welcome.

The Robotics Open House is part of the broader National Robotics Week, an initiative that recognizes robotics technology as a pillar of 21st-century innovation and showcases its growing importance through a wide variety of uses.

The HCI Lab is directed by Dr. Bilge Mutlu and includes a number of undergraduate and graduate researchers.  Ph.D. candidate Allison Sauppé says the open house is a terrific chance to inform the public about robots and their applications.  “It’s a great opportunity for both young children and older generations to learn about an up-and-coming field.  The event also clears up misconceptions about robots and their roles in the future,” she says.

Adults and kids will have plenty of opportunities to chat with researchers and ask questions.  They’ll walk away more knowledgeable and excited about new technologies.

Activity stations at the open house will include one on telepresence robots (sometimes nicknamed “Skype on a stick”), a robot that fetches pretend “sushi,” possibly a drone, and a robot specifically built for children from a 3D printer.

Professor Mutlu and other members of the HCI Lab look forward to greeting the public April 10.