Maja Mataric

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Embodied Socially Assistive Agents: Going Beyond Assistance and Toward Behavior Change

Robots are entering everyday lives and interacting with nonexperts in unstructured settings. Machines originally invented to automate (dirty, dull, and dangerous) work are now also being used for providing assistance socially instead of physically. Socially assistive robotics (SAR) involves challenges of embodied communication, social dynamics, and long-term adaptation and learning, bringing together the latest advances in AI, robotics, and human-machine interaction. Most development in those fields has not yet been focused on goal-driven challenges in human behavior, such as health-related behavior change. SAR presents the opportunity to drive the state of the art of those converging technologies with opportunities for impact on major societal challenges.

Maja Mataric´ is Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, founding director of the USC Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center, and Vice Dean for Research in the Viterbi School of Engineering. Her PhD and MS are from MIT, and BS from the University of Kansas. She is Fellow of AAAS, IEEE, and AAAI, and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award in Innovation, the Okawa Foundation, NSF Career, MIT TR35, and IEEE RAS Early Career Awards. A pioneer of socially assistive robotics, her research enables robots to help people through social interaction in therapy, rehabilitation, training, and education, developing robot-assisted therapies for autism, stroke, Alzheimer's and other special needs, as well as wellness interventions ( She is also founder and CSO of Embodied, Inc. (

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