Keynote Speakers


Illah R. Nourbakhsh

Former Robotics Group Lead at the Ames Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is currently, Professor of Robotics at The Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA

Professor of Robotics, director of the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab, is associate director for faculty, and head of the Robotics Master Program in The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His current research projects explore community-based robotics, including educational and social robotics and ways to use robotic technology to empower individuals and communities.

The CREATE Lab’s researchers lead diverse projects, from the application of GigaPan technology to scientific, citizen science and educational endeavours internationally to Hear Me, a project that uses technology to empower students to become leads in advocating for meaningful social change; Arts and Bots, a program for creative art and robotics fusion in middle school; Message from Me, a new system of communication between pre-K children and their parents to improve home-school consistency; Exprorables, interactive visualization tools that empower communities of practice to make sense of data and communicate to broad audiences, to many other programs.

The CREATE Lab’s programs have already engaged more than 23,000 people globally, and the CREATE Satellite program is forging additional CREATE Lab partners in new geographic zones. While on leave from Carnegie Mellon in 2004, he served as Robotics Group lead at NASA/Ames Research Center. He was a founder and chief scientist of Blue Pumpkin Software, Inc., which was acquired by Witness Systems, Inc.

Illah earned his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in computer science at Stanford University and has been a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon since 1997. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences named him a Kavli Fellow. In 2013 he was inducted into the June Harless West Virginia Hall of Fame.

He is co-author of the second edition MIT Press textbook, Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots. He is author of the MIT Press book for general readership, Robot Futures. Most recently he published Parenting for Tecnology Futures, as an Amazon paperback.

He is a trustee of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and he is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmetal Health Project He is also CEO and Chairman of Airviz Inc. a company dedicated to empowering individuals regarding home air quality.

NOVEMBER, 2,  19.00h

CosmoCaixa Auditorium, Isaac Newton, 26, Barcelona

Keynote: Robotics and Technology Fluency

Illah R. Nourbakhsh
Professor of Robotics The Robotics Institute Carnegie Mellon University, USA


As technology practitioners in health and education, we care deeply about the impact of robotic technologies and social robots on individual persons that are frequently our focus.  In understanding these issues, it is also important to consider future scale, from how individuals could benefit from robotic technologies to how whole communities can be impacted by these same technologies. 

In this talk, I provide remarks concerning the ethics and ramifications of robotics on communities: from problem-finding, citizen science, advocacy and change-making, we will discuss how robotics can shift the goal of technology literacy to a more intimate and powerful concept of technology fluency, whereby communities directly influence their future through the use of interactive robotics. I will provide examples with behind-the-scenes views of projects at The CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.



Carme TorrasCarme Torras
Research Professor at the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC). Head of the Perception and Manipulation group at the Robotics Institute in Barcelona
She holds M.Sc. degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Barcelona and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, respectively, and a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC).
In the scientific domain, Prof. Torras has published five books and near three hundred papers in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer vision, neurocomputing and robotics. She has led 11 European projects and supervised 18 PhD theses on these topics, and she is currently Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics. She was Associate Vice-President for Publications of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS), and has been elected to serve in the governing board of IEEE RAS in the period 2016-2018.
Prof. Torras was awarded the Narcís Monturiol Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya in 2000, and became ECCAI Fellow in 2007, member of Academia Europaea in 2010, and Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona in 2013.
In the literary domain, her robotics novel, La mutació sentimental (The Sentimental Mutation), won the Manuel de Pedrolo Prize and the Ictineu Prize to the best Catalan science-fiction book published in 2008, and it was later translated into Spanish. She has contributed to several collective volumes, and her story La vita e-terna won the 2014 Ictineu Prize to the best SF short story. Her non-SF novels Pedres de toc (Touchstones) and Miracles perversos (Perverse Miracles) won the Primera Columna and the Ferran Canyameres awards, respectively.
Prof. Torras has participated in many activities to promote Ethics in Robotics: she has delivered talks at local, national and international venues (e.g., at ICRA-13’s forum “Robotics meets the Humanities”), and she has written several essays on science fiction and ethics (e.g., in the Interaction Studies journal, the Mètode Science Studies journal, and periodicals like El País). She is currently developing some pedagogical materials to teach Roboethics based on her novel The Sentimental Mutation.

NOVEMBER, 3, 9.30

La Salle Campus Barcelona, Ramon Llull University, building Sant Jaume, Lluçanès, 41 Barcelona

Keynote: Robotic assistants: research challenges, ethics, and the role of fiction


Carme Torras
Research Professor at the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC). Head of the Perception and Manipulation group at the Robotics Institute in Barcelona



Robot assistants pose new, very attractive research challenges. They should be easy to command by non-expert users, intrinsically safe to people, able to manipulate not only rigid but also deformable objects, and highly adaptable to non-predefined and dynamic environments. A quick overview of research on these topics will be provided.Robot assistants pose also fundamental ethic questions. How will our increasing interaction with them affect individual identity, society and the future of humankind? Can this evolution be predicted? Can it somehow be guided? Philosophy, psychology and law are shedding principled light on these issues, while arts and science-fiction freely speculate about the role the human being and the machine may play in this “pas à deux” in which we are irremissibly engaged. We expect to trigger a stimulating interchange of views with the audience at the end of the talk.



Elizabeth Anne Broadbent

Associate Professor in Psycological Medicine. School of Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences,  Auckland University, New Zealand

Elizabeth initially trained as an electrical and electronic engineer at Canterbury University to pursue her interest in robotics. She then worked at Transpower, Électricité de Tahiti, and Robotechnology. After becoming interested in the psychological aspects of robotics and in psychoneuroimmunology, she obtained her MSc and PhD in health psychology, supported by a Bright Futures Top Achiever Doctoral Award.

She received an Early Career Award from the International Society of Behavioural Medicine and Early Career Research Excellence Award from the University of Auckland. She was a visiting academic at the school of psychology at Harvard University and in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  in Boston, USA.

Her current research interests include how stress affects our health, how our body posture affects our mood, interventions to help patients make sense of and cope with illness, and human-robot interaction in health contexts. Her work has been supported by grants from many agencies including the Health Research Council, Auckland Medical Research Foundation, Heart Foundation, Oakley Mental Health Research Foundation, Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, and the Foundation of Research Science and Technology.

November, 3, 16.45h

La Salle Campus Barcelona, Ramon Llull University, building Sant Jaume, Lluçanès, 41 Barcelona

Keynote: The benefits of companion robots for patients with chronic illness

Elizabeth Anne Broadbent
Associate Professor in Psychological Medicine. Aschool of Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Auckland University, New Zealand


Over the last decade, the Cares group at the University of Auckland has developed and tested healthcare robots. These robots include iRobi andCharlie, which can support people to manage long-term conditions at home by providing functions such as medication management and symptom monitoring. The robots can also assist residents in rest homes and patients in general practice clinics to manage their health.
Elizabeth is the leader of human robot interaction research in this team and has lead studies into the acceptability of these robots as well as their effects on health outcomes. She has also lead randomised controlled trials withParo a companion robot, to investigate its effects on loneliness in rest home residents and on outcomes in people with dementia. The team has employed a range of methods to study interactions with robots, including focus groups, questionnaires, prospective observational studies, experiments, and randomised controlled trials in health settings.  These studies have shed light on which functions to develop for healthcare robots; what people want robots to look, feel and sound like; how much mind and personality people attribute to robots; what makes robots seem creepy; how acceptable robots are to patients and staff; as well as the benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of healthcare robots.
In this talk Elizabeth will give an overview of this research to date. She will describe the team’s most recent randomised controlled trial employing robots at home to support patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reduce hospitalisations.  The implications of these results and recommendations for the future development of healthcare robots will be discussed.




Daniel J. Hannon

Professor of the Practice in Human Factors Engineering (part-time), Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tufts University, Boston, USA

Research Interests

Dr. Hannon is both a psychologist and an engineering professor with a research career that has been centered on studies of human interactions with complex socio-technical systems. His engineering work has spanned a range of application areas, including transportation systems, team performance, education, and health care, and has integrated engineering with psychology in his work with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).  As a psychologist and professor of the practice in human factors engineering, much of his work has been conducted through field-based studies, human-in-the-loop simulations, on-site system development, and through group workshop activities.

Projects in transportation systems have included the development of airport surveillance technology for virtual air traffic control towers, and the development of simulation systems for driver training. Work in team performance has included understanding team member interaction with technology in co-located and distributed configurations. His work in education has focused on the development of educational technology, particularly with respect to classroom-based equipment that provides an opportunity for students and teachers to work collaboratively. In the area of health care, Dr. Hannon’s work has explored the creation of medical devices and decision support tools, and the use of technology in non-traditional approaches to providing care, including mental health. Current work is exploring educational technology applications, such as robotics and rapid prototyping equipment to support vocational and social skill development in adolescents with ASDs. In all of this work, the goal is to offer people new ways of interacting with each other through the use of information technology. 

Much of Dr. Hannon’s work is guided by an interest in perceptual control theory and cognitive systems engineering. Through these approaches, it is possible to focus on motivational and situational elements that influence the decisions people make while operating in a complex environment.

November, 4, 9.30h

La Salle Campus Barcelona, Ramon Llull University, building Sant Jaume, Lluçanès, 41 Barcelona

Keynote: The Ties that Bind: Social Skills and the Theory of Mind

Daniel J. Hannon
Professor of the Practice in Human Factors, Department of Mechanical Engineering TUFTs University, Boston, USA



Fumihide Tanaka

Faculty of Engineering, Information and Systems, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Fumihide Tanaka received a Ph.D. from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2003. His dissertation was about multitask (lifelong) reinforcement learning. Then, he joined Sony Corporation as a research engineer for entertainment robots, AIBO/QRIO.

In 2004, he started a collaborative research project with the Machine Perception Laboratory in the University of California, San Diego where he and his colleagues conducted a long-term field study of robots interacting with young children in a nursery school.

Since then he has been actively working in the area of educational robots and child-robot interaction, and now is recognized as one of the pioneers in this research area. He moved to academia in 2008, the University of Tokyo (ISI Lab directed by Prof. Yasuo Kuniyoshi, -2014), and the University of Tsukuba (current).

November, 4, 13.30h

La Salle Campus Barcelona, Ramon Llull University, building Sant Jaume, Lluçanès, 41 Barcelona

Keynote: Title (TBC)

Fumihide Tanaka,
Faculty of Engineering, Information and Systems, University of Tsukuba, Japan