The in-person session starts at 8.30am on May 27th at room 112A.

For online streaming:

Zoom Link

The discussions on the implications of robotics and automation on manual work, workers and society are heating up as robots become more capable, intelligent, and resilient. The recent literature on such implications consistently shows that designing robotic solutions without considering its effects on the experience, meaning, and context of work does not only cause worker dissatisfaction, but also significant disruptions in process efficiency and safety. Various convergent research projects bringing together roboticists with anthropologists, economists, work psychologists, and occupational safety experts are recently initiated to understand, analyze, and act on the implications of robotics to the manual work force and society at large, and to establish a framework that can introduce the robotics technology in a fair and efficient manner. In this workshop, we bring in researchers that focus on such projects in various industries (e.g. recycling industry, fishing industry and logistics) along with experts on human-machine interaction, cognitive robotics and engineering education. Through invited talks, panels and discussion sessions, the workshop aims to create a vibrant debate environment, where the robotics community can examine experiences acquired from various application domains and discuss future steps to establish a framework for fair and effective integration of the robotics technology.

The list of speakers, panelists, and their expertise relevant to the workshop are given below.

Jordan Berg

Program Director at the US National Science Foundation (NSF)

Division of Civil, Mechanical & Manufacturing Innovation  (ENG/CMMI)

Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) Program

Minghui Zheng

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

University of Buffalo, NY, USA

Relevant Research Focus: Dr. Zheng is an expert on autonomous systems and manufacturing. She is the principal investigator of an NSF Future of Work project on human robot collaboration for electronic waste disassembly work.

Talk Abstract: Many factors, such as scarcity of resources and environmental regulations, have motivated the consideration of e-waste recovery and remanufacturing. However, there are significant challenges related to the labor-intensive nature of disassembly, which is an integral part of critical remanufacturing operations such as reuse, repair, and recycling. This talk will introduce our recent studies on human-robot collaboration (HRC) for e-waste disassembly, with a particular focus on task planning and robotic motion planning in an HRC environment.

Brian Scassellati

Professor of Computer Science, Cognitive Science, and Mechanical Engineering,

Director of the NSF Expedition on Socially Assistive Robotics,

Yale University, CT, USA

Relevant Research Focus: Prof. Scassellati focuses on embodied computational models of human social behavior and human machine interaction. Besides a large array of social and assistive robotics research projects, he is also working on robot learning and teaching strategies for integrating robots to the recycling work.

Amy Wrzesniewski

School of Management

Yale University, CT, USA

Relevant Research Focus: Prof. Wrzesniewski focuses on meaning and experience of work in difficult contexts (e.g., stigmatized occupations, virtual work, absence of work). One of her numerous research projects in this topic is on the impacts of the robotics and automation technology to recycling work.

Kristian Kloeckl

Department of Art + Design and the School of Architecture

Northeastern University, MA, USA

Relevant Research Focus: Kristian’s work is guided by an interest in exploring meaningful ways to disclose the potential of technological innovations by developing novel application scenarios and solutions as well as interface and interaction modalities to form valuable connections between people, objects, space, and the digital data layers that increasingly pervade our environment.

Talk Abstract: Conceiving new forms of humans working together with responsive systems in industrial workplace environments affords the opportunity to move beyond a centuries old history of humans constrained to adapting to machines on factory floors, often to the severe detriment of human health and wellbeing. Developing technologies that can adjust and adapt to human practices of work inevitably leads to the question of what work looks like if it need not follow pre-programmed machine routines. This talk presents the Gymnast_CoBot project where we started with observational studies in seafood processing workplace environments to inquire how work happens in these settings. We then identified a number of work patterns on the factory floor that recall elements of gym-based fitness routines. The robotic support devices that we then developed as prototypes enable human work to be altered in a way to reduce elements of strain and instead follow healthier movement patterns akin to fitness routines and that adjust to workers’ individual work practices. This project was developed in collaboration between the Experience Design Lab and the Institute for Experiential Robotics at Northeastern University and supported by NSF’s Future of Work initiative under the award number 1928654.

Bilge Mutlu

Computer Science, Psychology, and Industrial Engineering

University of Wisconsin–Madison, WI,USA

Relevant Research Focus: Bilge’s research aims to build robotic technologies that assist and collaborative with people, including robotic assistants for individuals with disabilities, robotic collaborators for physical work, and robotic learning companions for children.

Talk title: Methods, Tools, and Interfaces for Enabling Human-Robot Collaborative Work

Talk Abstract: We envision a future where humans and robots work harmoniously and collaboratively ways that improve the productivity and safety of work and the quality of the life of the worker. Although we have developed effective ways of fully automating some processes, little is known about how to best create collaborative work with robots. What aspects of the work should a robot or a human perform? How can we enable workers to create collaborative work plans and to assess that their work plans are optimal? How can we assist workers in collaborating with a robot? In this talk, I will present our recent and ongoing work on (1) transforming manual work into collaborative processes for humans and robots and (2) assisting workers in planning, assessing, and performing collaborative work with robots.

Matt Beane

Assistant Professor, Technology Management Program

University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Talk Title: Resourcing a Technological Portfolio: How Fairtown Hospital Preserved Focal Results While Degrading its Older Surgical Robot

Abstract: Here I theorize the process that preserves focal results as an organization contends with new and previously acquired versions of a technology. I do so via a study of robotic surgery performed via two surgical robots at a top-tier teaching hospital. After acquiring its first surgical robot, the hospital acquired a second, newer robot to expand into adjacent markets and service excess demand. The previous robot degraded, yet experienced talent was preferentially assigned to use it. Prior literature on technology and organizing explains the first phase of this journey but not the second. Doing so required building a theory that accounted for the different ways that this hospital committed and developed resources across the two systems. I show that by committing top infrastructure, new talent and complex cases to the newer robot – and substandard infrastructure, experienced talent and simpler cases to the old – this hospital preserved focal results but degraded the prior robot. Yet for years this made no difference for key patient outcomes as experienced talent developed workarounds to compensate. This also stressed experienced talent while building their resilience and limiting strategic exploration for the hospital.

Cagdas Onal

Robotics Engineering Department,

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, MA, USA

Relevant Research Focus: Dr. Onal’s research is on designing soft robotic systems that can safely work together with humans and augment them. He is also the principal investigator of an NSF Future of Work project on the effective training of STEM graduate students in interdisciplinary research areas.

Yunus Telliel

Professor in Anthropology and Rhetoric

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Relevant Research Focus: Dr. Telliel focuses on ethics of technology. He is the founder of Applied Robot Ethics Laboratory, and is teaching a range of courses including robot ethics, cultural theory, and rhetoric.  He is a co-principal investigator of an NSF Future of Work project on the effective training of STEM graduate students in interdisciplinary research areas.

Talk title: A Roboticist and An Anthropologist walk into a bar..”: Developing an Interdisciplinary Curriculum for the Future of Robots and Roboticists 

Talk Abstract: Robots will steal (some of) our jobs, and this may not be necessarily a bad thing. Current public debates around robots succumb to either techno-pessimism and techno-optimism. While proponents of the first believe that the adoption of robots in workplace will eventually move large populations out of workforce and rob them of their ability to support themselves and their sense of identity and moral worth, proponents of the latter consider the very same trend of increasing presence of robots in workplace not a negative process, but instead as the liberation of humans from the necessity of work. Both promote a view of future that is technologically-determined. In this talk, we will argue that in the foreseeable future workplace will remain human-centric, and human control, input, and guidance will shape the success of human-robot collaboration. We believe that it is reasonable to anticipate an increasing need for private and public sector leaders who are able to develop an integrated perspective on technological change, social impact, and economic consequences. What role can robotics graduate programs play in training a new generation of these leaders? What kind of skills would they need in order to navigate challenges in the future of robot-assisted work? In response to these two questions, we, a roboticist and an anthropologist, will discuss an experimental robotics training program that we have recently introduced—in collaboration with a multidisciplinary group of colleagues at WPI. The starting point for this training program is that design of robots – perhaps all technology – can never be simply about technical expertise. From the designer’s creative imagination to the challenges of usability and explainability, design exceeds pure technicity; our training program thus approaches design (as a theoretical inquiry and a practical question) as an invitation to non-roboticists such as social scientists, humanists, and artists. Building on this premise, the training program helps robotics graduate students learn (1) to work in multidisciplinary teams, (2) to translate their expertise into non-technical languages, (3) to determine when they need input from non-roboticists, and (4) to incorporate such input into design process. We will conclude with a discussion of how such skills, while seeming so simple and basic, could ensure that the future workplace will remain human-centric. 

Joyce Sidopoulos

Co-Founder, Vice President Programs & Community at MassRobotics

Talk Title: Training future roboticist with Work Context – MassRobotics Jumpstart Fellowship Program

Abstract: The robotics industry is growing exponentially, and the rate of workforce talent and training is not keeping up. As the robotics industry grows, it’s important to understand what the robotics industry needs – Skilling, robotics technicians, engineers etc. While the Robotics and STEM workforce is not growing fast enough, it also suffers from a lack of diversity. In the Massachusetts technology sector, which includes STEM and the Robotics industry, only 5 percent of workers are Black, 7 percent are Latinx, and one third are women. The MassRobotics Jumpstart Fellowship program is addressing these challenges. This session will describe how the program came together, what was learned during the pilot year from both students and industry collaborators, and the program moving forward

Alicia Sasser Modestino

Department of Economics, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Northeastern University, MA, USA

Relevant Research Focus: Dr. Modestino’s current research focuses on labor market issues related to the Future of Work including technology adoption, changing employer skill requirements, labor market mismatch, and youth development. Much of her research is interdisciplinary and involves large-scale empirical evaluations to determine underlying causal relationships using a variety of data, methods, and techniques. This includes mixed methods studies that combine “big data”, such as online jobs postings and administrative data sets, with survey and qualitative data to look inside the “black box” of changing labor market dynamics.

Short papers of the workshop:

Emily C. Collins, David Cameron, and Thomas L.M. Piercy: “The Complex Human: How to Enhance a Control System”

Carlotta Sartore, Lorenzo Rapetti, and Daniele Pucci: “Robot Design Optimization for Human-Robot Collaborative Lifting Tasks”

Halit Bener Suay, Abhijit Majumdar, and Daniel H. Grollman: “Robots Work, People Rule:Human-Centered Pick-And-Place Automation.”

This workshop has received support and endorsement from RAS Technical Committee on Human-Robot Interaction and Communication.



0830 – 0835     :       Opening talk by the workshop organizers

0835 – 0900     :       Jordan Berg, the US National Science Foundation


Chair: Jordan Berg

0900 – 0930     :         Panel Title: Future of Work Context

Participants: Amy Wrzesniewski, Alicia Sasser-Modestino, Emily C. Collins, Taskin Padir, Minghui Zheng

CASE STUDY: Future of the waste recycling work in the era of robotics and automation

Chair: Emily C. Collins

09:30 – 10:00     :       Minghui Zheng

10:00 – 10:45     :           ———–Coffee Break———-

10:45 – 11:15     :         Brian Scassellati

11:15- 11:45     :          Amy Wrzesniewski


Chair: Berk Calli

11:45 – 12:05     :          5 minute presentation for each poster

12:05 – 12:15     :          Q/A

12:15 – 12:45    :           Poster presentations

LUNCH BREAK 12:30 – 01:45

SESSION: Human Robot Co-existence

Chair: Taskin Padir

01:45 – 02:15    :           Kristian Kloeckl

021:5 – 02:45     :           Bilge Mutlu

02:45 – 03:15     :           Matt Beane

03:15 – 03:45     :           ——–Coffee Break———

SESSION: Training Future Roboticists as Leaders of a New Era of Work

Chair: Emily C. Collins

0345 – 0415     :           Cagdas Onal and Yunus Telliel

0415 – 0445     :           Joyce Sidopoulos


Chair: Berk Calli

0445 – 0545     :           Panel: Next steps for academy and industry

Participants. : Taskin Padir, Cagdas Onal,  Matt Beane, Joyce Sidopoulos, Markus Vincze


Dr. Berk Calli (primary contact person)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute,

Robotics Engineering Department and Computer Science Department

85 Prescott Street, Worcester, MA-01605, USA

Phone: +1-475-227-7440

E-mail: bcalli@wpi.edu

URL:  https://www.wpi.edu/people/faculty/bcalli

Dr. Taskin Padir

Northeastern University

Institute for Experiential Robotics

360 Huntington Avenue

Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Phone: +1-617-373-8114

E-mail: t.padir@northeastern.edu

URL: https://coe.northeastern.edu/people/padir-taskin/

Prof. Amy Wrzesniewski

Yale University,

School of Management

165 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT-06511, USA

Phone: +1-203-432-5932

E-mail: amy.wrzesniewski@yale.edu

URL: https://som.yale.edu/faculty/amy-wrzesniewski

Prof. Markus Vincze

Technical University Wien

Automation & Control Institute

4. Stock, Gußhausstraße 27-29, 1040 Wien, Austria

Phone: +43-1-58801-376-611

E-mail: vincze@acin.tuwien.ac.at

Dr. Alicia Sasser-Modestino

Northeastern University

Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics

360 Huntington Avenue

Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Phone: +1-617-373-7998

E-mail: a.modestino@northeastern.edu

URL: https://cssh.northeastern.edu/faculty/alicia-sasser-modestino

Prof. Aaron Dollar

Yale University,

Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

15 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT-06511, USA

Phone: +1-203-436-9122

E-mail: aaron.dollar@yale.edu

URL: https://seas.yale.edu/faculty-research/faculty-directory/aaron-m-dollar

Dr. Emily C. Collins

New College of the Humanities at Northeastern

Devon House, 58 St Katharine’s Way, London, E1W 1LP

Phone: +44-207-637-4550

E-mail: emily.collins@nchlondon.ac.uk

URL: https://www.nchlondon.ac.uk/faculty/dr-emily-collins/