Microsoft Future Leaders in Robotics and AI Seminar Series: Emily Collins

Friday, March 3, 2023
2:30 p.m.
Online Seminar

Building Trustworthy Robotics for Better, Safer Industry

Zoom Link

Emily Collins
Research Scientist
Northeastern University


There is an increasing interest in considering, measuring, and implementing trust in human-robot interaction (HRI). New avenues in this field include identifying social means for robots to influence trust, and social aspects of trust such as a perceptions of robots' integrity, sincerity or even benevolence. However, questions remain regarding robots' authenticity in obtaining trust through social means and their capacity to increase such experiences through social interaction with users. Here I propose that the dyadic model of HRI misses a key complexity: a robot’s trustworthiness may be contingent on the user’s relationship with, and opinion of, the individual or organisation deploying the robot. I will discuss examples highlighting the need for trustworthy robotics and AI (RAI) in a variety of disparate environments. This will demonstrate that there is no one approach to the answer of trustworthy RAI, because a human’s relationship with the person, employer, government, etc, who has given them RAI to work with is not consistent. Along the way I will consider topics such as Theory of Mind (ToM), Interpretationism, and autonomy and Wittgenstein, as I discuss how solutions to the problem of trustworthy RAI for better, safer industry, should leverage as much interdisciplinary thinking as possible.


Dr. Emily C. Collins is an interdisciplinary Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) Research Scientist and a British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist. She has expertise in biomimetic, brain-based, therapeutic, and industrial nuclear robotics; HRI methodology development; and ethical and theoretical consideration of Robotics and AI (RAI). Her key research themes include trustworthiness and verification; responsibility and accountability; and the centrality of human psychology and socio-political factors to effective RAI deployment in the real world. Dr. Collins holds a Philosophy BA Honours degree from Cardiff University, UK. Before retraining as a scientist, Dr. Collins worked in the international cultural and heritage sector, in Kenya, and then Japan. She was awarded a distinction in her Master Of Science degree in Experimental Psychology in 2012 from Sussex University, UK. In 2017, Dr. Collins received her PhD in Psychology and Social Robotics from Sheffield Robotics at The University Of Sheffield, UK, entitled ‘Towards Robot-Assisted Therapy: Identifying Mechanisms of Effect in Human-Biomimetic Robot Interaction.’ She spent a portion of her PhD at Osaka University, Japan, translating psychology metrics from English into Japanese to conduct cross-cultural HRI research. After one year as a UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Research Fellow at Sheffield Robotics, Dr. Collins moved to the University of Liverpool, and then the University of Manchester, to work as an HRI specialist for an EPSRC-funded UK-wide Research Hub tackling Verifiable Autonomous Robotics and AI for Extreme and Hazardous Environments, in particular for the nuclear and off-shore oil industries (a.k.a. the RAIN and ORCA Projects respectively). At the University of Liverpool she also developed robot demos for home robot activity at the Home Robot Lab for the Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology. As an HRI specialist at the University of Manchester, Dr. Collins focused on Inter-Faculty collaborations centred around trustworthy autonomous system theory. She is currently an Associate Research Scientist at the Institute of Experiential Robotics at Northeastern University working between the Boston and London campuses on interdisciplinary HRI projects.

About the Seminar Series

The Future Leaders in Robotics and AI: Celebrating Diversity and Innovation Seminar Series is part of the University of Maryland and Microsoft Robotics and Diversity Initiative. This is a nationwide online seminar series for PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, or early-career professionals, especially underrepresented minorities and women. The seminar series highlights the latest research and innovation in the field of robotics and AI. The series is intended to provide exposure and mentorship opportunities to the speakers, build a network of innovators across the country, and support the speakers’ career planning.

The seminars are held once per month during the academic year. There are two speakers per seminar. Each speaker gives a 20-minute research presentation followed by a Q&A segment. Immediately after the second seminar, the speakers participate in a discussion with faculty.

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