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Chia-Hsin Wu shapes a future where robots enhance lives of children and seniors

Published on 10.4.2024
Tampere University
Chia-Hsin Wu, Doctoral Researcher, väitöskirjatutkija
Photo: Antti Yrjönen
Chia-Hsin Wu is developing robots aimed at aiding children's education and elderly healthcare.  

Chia-Hsin Wu’s journey into the world of social robots began during an exchange year at Tampere University, sparking a profound interest in how these machines could positively impact our daily existence.

– I enjoyed programming robots to suit users' needs and was glad to learn a new approach that creates positive user experiences," Wu reflects on her initial foray into robotics. 

This enthusiasm for robotics, combined with a desire to enhance human life through technology, led Wu to her role as a doctoral researcher in the 'CONVERGENCE – Convergence of Humans and Machines' project. Here, she is developing robots aimed at aiding children's education and elderly healthcare.  

The CONVERGENCE project, a hub of multidisciplinary research, delves into affective computing, gamification, and robotics to envision a future where knowledge and skills are transferred in real-time and AI agents can anticipate and respond to human needs ethically. 

Wu focuses her research on the perceived trustworthiness of robots, especially among children and the elderly.

– I am working with robots that help children learn and assist older adults in their daily healthcare," she explains. Her work has a broad range of applications, from educational tools in sports camps to encouraging physical activities among older adults in care homes.  

By introducing robots into the daily lives of vulnerable user groups, Wu aims to improve  technological literacy and foster a positive relationship between humans and machines. 

The genuine interest and affection that the elderly have shown towards the robots have pleasantly surprised Wu.

– Just a week ago, I heard from my supervisor that the older adults in the care home where we conducted research were asking if they could have an outdoor walk with the robot again.

At just 26 years old, Wu's research journey is already marked by significant recognitions that have reinforced her drive. Her master's thesis was awarded the winner of the SIGCHI Finland Master's Thesis Competition in 2022, and her first doctoral publication won the Huawei Best PhD Publication Award from Tampere University of Technology.

– These recognitions have given me confirmation of my work and further set my motivation to excel in this field, Wu states.  

Coming from a background that blends industrial design and Human-Technology Interaction, Wu appreciates the innovative and multidisciplinary nature of the CONVERGENCE project. It challenges her to explore new technical research methods, pushing her beyond her comfort zone and fostering academic growth.

– I will learn new things that enhance the scope of my research,” she says. 

Wu draws inspiration from everyday encounters, from her initial interaction with a food delivery robot to the smiles of children and the elderly involved in her studies. These experiences serve as constant reminders of the real-world impact of her work, where technology and humanity intersect in meaningful ways. 

Chia-Hsin Wu, Doctoral Researcher, Chia was photographed in Teatterimonttu, which is a theater space in the City Centre Campus.Photo: Antti Yrjönen

The future of human-machine interaction should be ethically safe, have information transparency, and be accessible to all kinds of user groups.  

Chia-Hsin Wu

This series of articles features PhD researchers from Tampere University's CONVERGENCE of Humans and Machines -project, a fusion of natural and engineering sciences and social sciences and humanities. CONVERGENCE aims to bridge the gap between technology and humanity by exploring areas such as affective computing, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. You can read more on the project website.

Text and photos by Antti Yrjönen
Stage and lights by Carlos Portilla Lopez
Venue Teatterimonttu, City centre campus

Chia-Hsin Wu, Doctoral Researcher,
Each CONVERGENCE doctoral researcher has two supervisors. Chia-Hsin Wu's supervisors are Kaisa Väänänen and Esa Rahtu.
Photo: Antti Yrjönen