Robots, Natural Language, and Social Networks

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Dr. Nikolaos Mavridis
Asst. Professor, NYU AD
Founder, Interactive Robots and Media Laboratory
Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Creating robots that can fluidly converse in natural language, and cooperate and socialize with their human partners is a goal that has always captured human imagination. Furthermore, it is a goal that requires truly interdisciplinary research: engineering, computer science, as well as the cognitive sciences are crucial towards its realization. Challenges and current progress
towards this goal will be illustrated through two real-world robot examples: the conversational robot “Ripley”, and the “FaceBots” social robots which utilize and publish social information on the FaceBook website. A glimpse towards novel educational and artistic avenues opened by such robots will be provided, through the Interactive Theatre installation of the Ibn Sina robot. Starting from examples from Avicenna’s case, we will also refer to robotic teleoperation, telepresence, as well as to mixed-autonomy systems. Finally, we will briefly explore some avenues of the near and more distant future, such as the very promising proposed concept of the Hybrid Human-Robot Cloud.

Dr. Nikolaos Mavridis received his PhD from MIT in 2007, after receiving his MSEE from UCLA and a M. Eng. in ECE from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Currently, he is serving as an Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYU AD), after having served as Ass. Prof. at the United Arab Emirates University, where he had founded the Interactive Robots and Media Laboratory (IRML), which is now being extended at NYU AD.
The IRML lab is home to the Microsoft-award winning "FaceBots" social robots project, as well as to "IbnSina", the first Arabic- speaking human-like humanoid. In his PhD thesis at MIT, he has introduced the "Grounded Situation Model" proposal, and has demonstrated its benefits by implementing it on Ripley, a manipulator robot with vision, touch, and speech synthesis/recognition. The sensory-motor/linguistic abilities of the resulting system were comparable to those implied by a standard psychological test for 3-year old children (The "Token Test"). The current research Interests of Dr. Mavridis include: Social Robotics, Human-Robot Interaction, and Cognitive Systems. Dr. Mavridis has received honorary fellowships from the Onasis foundation and the Hellenic State Fellowship organization, and he has also served in numerous leadership positions.