Learn More About Henny Admoni
To the public at large, robots are often thought of as novelties, like the vacuum cleaner that can scoot around your house by itself. But Henny Admoni (Hen-nee Ad-MAH-nee), the A. Nico Habermann Assistant Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, sees a future of social assistance robots and AI systems that can help us in new ways and will have applications to industries as wide ranging as auto manufacturing, health care, insurance and more. According to Admoni, in the near-future, robots and AI will be able to aid older people as they communicate with caregivers, help those with severe speech impairments regain their agency in conversation and enhance business efficiency and innovation.
Admoni is a multidisciplinary expert on understanding how, when brought together, human behavior and computer science enhance human-robot interactions (HRI) such as non-verbal communications and more efficient work processes. In addition to teaching a new generation of roboticists to put humans at the center of the robot development process, she advises organizational leaders including Chief Technology Officers – particularly those in health care, logistics and manufacturing – on the best ways to match humans with artificial intelligence, robots and machines.
“I’m very, very interested in how we can build robots and AI systems that are useful for people,” explains Admoni, the director of Carnegie Mellon’s Human And Robot Partners (HARP) Lab. “I take my training in cognitive science and my training in computer science to look at what we actually know about human beings and the way we perceive information, make decisions and learn things. I then use that information to build better robots and AI algorithms that can be used to help individuals and organizations.”
Integrating Robots and AI Into Everyday Life and Work
A believer in adapting robots to people in the human environment as opposed to forcing humans to adapt to robots, Admoni emphasizes the importance of predictability.
“An important aspect of integrating robots into environments like workplaces is that they need to be predictable,” she explains. “People need to be able to understand what it did, why it did what it did, and what it’s going to do next. This understanding will increase trust in robots and AI systems through transparency and explainability.”
It’s also vital, she says, to be able to deconstruct algorithms, allowing humans to apply their “digital coworkers” correctly and trust them.
“There are issues around the risk of people misusing the technology and either over-trusting it, under-trusting it or thinking that it can do more than it actually can. It’s important to clarify what technologies actually are capable of doing while also training your workers to understand what the technology is capable of.”
Teaching AI and Robots to Teach Themselves
According to Admoni, one of the keys to integrating intelligent systems into everyday life that developers are working on now is the ability for robots and AI systems to learn about their performance and adapt accordingly.
“It’s going to be important for robots to be able to recognize when they’re failing,” she points out. “Machine learning has such big promise because it enables us to not have to rely on getting everything right the first time; it allows our systems to experience things and adapt in the real world.”
The key to maximizing acceptance of robots and AI systems both in and out of the workplace is to emphasize that it’s not about replacing humans; it’s about fostering human-machine collaboration.
“A lot of the motivation of my work is ‘how do we leverage what robots can do for people to free up people to do the things that people are good at?’” Admoni explains. “Let robots take over the tasks that robots are the best at. Don’t try to replace the human interaction; try to make it so that robots partner with people who are doing jobs, thus making the people even better at their jobs.”
Henny Admoni is the A. Nico Habermann Assistant Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and leader of its Human And Robot Partners (HARP) Lab. She studies how to develop intelligent robots that can assist and collaborate with humans on complex tasks like preparing a meal. She is most interested in how natural human communication, like where someone is looking, can reveal underlying human intentions and can be used to improve human-robot interactions. Her research has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Office of Naval Research, DARPA, the Paralyzed Veterans of America Foundation and Sony Corporation. Her work has been featured on NPR, Voice of America News and WESA radio.
Admoni, who completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Carnegie Mellon’s Personal Robotics Lab, holds a PhD and MS in Computer Science from Yale University and a BA/MA joint degree in Computer Science from Wesleyan University.
Henny Admoni is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.