On Friday, November 22, 2013, Savioke Chief Robot Whisperer Tessa Lau gave a talk at the MIT Media Lab on usable robots for all.


About a year ago, knowing nothing about robotics, Tessa Lau joined Willow Garage with one mission: to create robots so easy to use that everyone, including persons with disabilities, could use them to improve their lives. From an HCI researcher's perspective, robotics is a very rich field: incredibly complex systems which are sorely in need of good design and usable interfaces. Because of their complexity, merely using robots requires precise specification of what they should do: in short, programming. Yet how can we expect mere mortals to program robots? In this talk Lau will detail what it is about robotics that makes programming difficult for end users, and propose a few strategies that may help get more robots out into the world.


Dr. Tessa Lau is Chief Robot Whisperer and co-founder at Savioke, where she is creating a new generation of usable robots for the service industry. Previously, Dr. Lau was a Research Scientist at Willow Garage, where she led an effort to develop simple interfaces for personal robots based on end user programming. She also spent 11 years at IBM Research developing end user programming systems for enterprises. More generally, Dr. Lau's research is in the area of intelligent user interfaces: combining techniques from artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction to create systems that enhance human productivity and creativity. She has served on organizing and program committees for major AI and HCI conferences and journals. She also served on the board of CRA-W, the CRA committee on the status of women in computing research. Dr. Lau holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Washington.