Alan Wagner Receives Air Force Young Investigator Program Award for Social Robotics Work

Portions of this news release originally appeared on the GTRI website and were authored by Robert Nesmith.

Combining psychology and high-end robotics research, Alan Wagner, a research scientist in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the Robotics & Intelligent Machines Center (RIM), works to create robots that will interact with a wide variety of people in as many different social situations as possible.

Wagner, who works in GTRI’s Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory (ATAS), is one of 40 recipients of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program (AFOSR YIP) award for his proposal “Trust and Trustworthiness in Human-Robot Interaction: A Formal Conceptualization.” 

Open to young scientists and engineers at research institutions who have shown an exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research, the award is given to those who have received their doctoral or equivalent degree within the last five years and includes $360,000 over three years.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (ASOFR) received 192 proposals in response to its solicitation in major areas of interest to the Air Force, including aerospace, chemical and material sciences; physics and electronics; and mathematics, information, and life sciences. Wagner and School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Yang Wang are the only two Georgia Tech award recipients for 2013. 

Wagner’s research interests include social robotics, social learning, and human-robot interaction. He joined GTRI in January 2010. Focusing on robot-human interaction in a wide variety of social situations, Wagner’s work draws heavily on theory from social psychology and aims to develop the computational underpinnings that will not only allow a robot to act “socially” in the presence of humans, but will also allow the robot to reason about a person’s own social behavior.

“These are very competitive awards, reserved for those earlier career researchers that the Air Force deems as demonstrating exceptional ability and promise,” said Georgia Tech Vice President and GTRI Director Bob McGrath. 

In previous work with another RIM faculty member, College of Computing Associate Dean Ron Arkin, Wagner developed, implemented, and tested algorithms that allowed a robot to model and deceive an interactive partner. For this latest proposal, Wagner applies the same framework to the opposite end of the spectrum: trust.

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Josie Giles
RIM Communications Officer