Keynote Speakers

Prof. Maja J. Matarić

Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience and Pediatrics 
Vice Dean for Research

Viterbi School of Engineering 
University of Southern California

Title: "Socially Assistive Robotics: Personalized Machines that (Provide) Care"

Date: Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Abstract: Socially assistive robotics (SAR) is a new subfield of robotics that bridges human-robot interaction (HRI), rehabilitation robotics, social robotics, and service robotics. SAR focuses on developing machines capable of assisting users, typically in health and education contexts, through social rather than physical interaction. The robot's physical embodiment is at the heart of SAR's effectiveness, as it leverages the inherently human tendency to engage with lifelike (but not necessarily humanlike or otherwise biomimetic) social behavior. This talk will describe research into embodiment, modeling and steering social dynamics, and long-term user adaptation for SAR. The research will be grounded in projects involving analysis of multi-modal activity data, modeling personality and engagement, formalizing social use of space and non-verbal communication, and personalizing the interaction with the user over a period of months. The presented methods and algorithms will be validated on implemented SAR systems evaluated by human subject cohorts from a variety of user populations, including stroke patients, children with autism spectrum disorder, and elderly with Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.

Speaker Bio: Maja Matarić is professor and Chan Soon-Shiong chair in Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, founding director of the USC Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center (, co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab ( and Vice Dean for Research in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. She received her PhD in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence from MIT in 1994, MS in Computer Science from MIT in 1990, and BS in Computer Science from the University of Kansas in 1987. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Fellow of the IEEE, and recipient of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award for Innovation, Okawa Foundation Award, NSF Career Award, the MIT TR100 Innovation Award, and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award. She served as the elected president of the USC faculty and the Academic Senate. At USC she has been awarded the Viterbi School of Engineering Service Award and Junior Research Award, the Provost's Center for Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship, the Mellon Mentoring Award, the Academic Senate Distinguished Faculty Service Award, and a Remarkable Woman Award. She is featured in the science documentary movie "Me & Isaac Newton", in The New Yorker ("Robots that Care" by Jerome Groopman, 2009), Popular Science ("The New Face of Autism Therapy", 2010), the IEEE Spectrum ("Caregiver Robots", 2010), and is one of the LA Times Magazine 2010 Visionaries. Prof. Mataric´ is the author of a popular introductory robotics textbook, "The Robotics Primer" (MIT Press 2007), an associate editor of three major journals and has published extensively. She serves or has recently servied on a number of advisory boards, including the National Science Foundation Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) Division Advisory Committee, and the Willow Garage and Evolution Robotics Scientific Advisory Boards. Prof. Mataric´ is actively involved in K-12 educational outreach, having obtained federal and corporate grants to develop free open-source curricular materials for elementary and middle-school robotics courses in order to engage student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics. Her Interaction Lab's research into socially assistive robotics is aimed at endowing robots with the ability to help people through individual non-contact assistance in convalescence, rehabilitation, training, and education. Her research is currently developing robot-assisted therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders, stroke and traumatic brain injury survivors, and individuals with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia. Details about her research are found at


Dr. Guruduth S. Banavar

Vice President, Cognitive Computing, IBM Research
Title: "Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing"

Date: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Abstract: In the last decade, the availability of massive amounts of new data, and the development of new machine learning technologies, have augmented reasoning systems to give rise to a new class of computing systems. These “Cognitive Systems” learn from data, reason from models, and interact naturally with us, to perform complex tasks better than either humans or machines can do by themselves. In essence, cognitive systems help us perform like the best in each domain by penetrating the complexity of big data and leveraging the power of models. O ne of the first cognitive systems, Watson, demonstrated through a Jeopardy! exhibition match, that it was capable of answering complex factoid questions as effectively as the world’s champions. Follow-on cognitive systems perform other tasks, such as discovery, reasoning, and multi-modal understanding in a variety of domains, such as healthcare, insurance, and education. We believe such cognitive systems will transform every profession, industry, and our everyday life for the better. In this talk, I will give an overview of the applications and key capabilities of cognitive systems, and highlight the role pervasive computing will play in such systems.

Speaker Bio: Guruduth Banavar is vice president of cognitive computing at IBM Research, responsible for creating the next generation of cognitive systems in the Watson family. He has worked across IBM’s businesses to co-innovate with clients, for example, to build a city operations center in Rio de Janeiro. Guru has served on Governor Cuomo’s commission for improving New York state’s resilience to natural disasters after Hurricane Sandy. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, and other international media.
Earlier, Guru was the Director of IBM Research in India, which he helped establish as a pre-eminent center for Services Research and Mobile Computing. There, he and his team received a National Innovation Award by the President of India in 2009 for the Spoken Web project. His early work was on distributed systems and programming models at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center in New York, which he joined in 1995 after his PhD in Computer Science.


Dr. Jim Kurose

Assistant Director, Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), National Science Foundation
Title: "An Expanding and Expansive View of Computing, and the Special Role of Pervasive Computing"

Date: Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Abstract: Advances in computer and information science and engineering (CISE) are providing unprecedented opportunities for research and education – often at the interfaces between these disciplines and many others. I will provide a general overview of CISE at the National Science Foundation and include a discussion of current trends that are shaping the future of our disciplines. I will also discuss the critical role that pervasive computing and sensing has played in shaping our disciplines’ current and future research directions, and focus on CISE programs that directly relate to these trends.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Jim Kurose is the Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). He leads the CISE Directorate, with an annual budget of more than $850 million, in its mission to uphold the nation's leadership in scientific discovery and engineering innovation through its support of fundamental research in computer and information science and engineering and transformative advances in cyber infrastructure.
Dr. Kurose is on leave from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass Amherst), where he has served as Distinguished Professor at the School of Computer Science since 2004. He has also served in a number of administrative roles at UMass and has been a Visiting Scientist at IBM Research, INRIA, Institut EURECOM , the University of Paris, the Laboratory for Information, Network and Communication Sciences, and Technicolor Research Labs.
His research interests include network protocols and architecture, network measurement, sensor networks, multimedia communication, and modeling and performance evaluation. Dr. Kurose has served on many national and international advisory boards and panels and has received numerous awards for his research and teaching. With Keith Ross, he is the co-author of the textbook, Computer Networking, a top down approach (6th edition) published by Addison-Wesley/Pearson.
Dr. Kurose received his Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from Wesleyan University. He is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).