As smarter, faster, and cheaper industrial robots are at the verge of revolutionising manufacturing worldwide, it seems we are ready to entrust them with more diverse tasks, ranging from collaboratively assembling products with people to providing front-of-house customer service. Already today, hospitals, hotels, and logistics companies use robots to provide simple services, yet for most people, day-to-day interactions with robots continue to be sparse. Leila Takayama, Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz, is preparing us for a future when human–robot inter-actions will become commonplace. Her groundbreaking and highly interdisciplinary approach creates empathy for machines by making robotic ‘thought’ processes and missteps accessible and visible to their human counterparts. In the robotic future envisioned by Leila, lifeless machines that simply perform their dull tasks with no visible signs of communication are replaced by relatable co-workers that we can recognise as partners. At Falling Walls, Leila demonstrates how a combination of psychology, design, computer science, linguistics, and user experience research will make our interactions with robots more engaging, effective, and ultimately empowering.

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