Social Therapeutic and Robotic Systems (STARS) Lab @ Mississippi State University

July 31, 2014

Researchers at Mississippi State University are studying human-robot interaction − how people respond to robotic technology.  Professor Cindy Bethel started and oversees the Social Therapeutic and Robotic Systems (STARS) Lab.  She leads a team of 22 researchers including undergraduates, masters, and PhD students.

“This research has been an investment of heart and soul for our students and for me.  We started out where we didn’t have any funding for this, but it was something that we were passionate about. And so we have devoted our time to this and to building this program.” – Cindy Bethel

Here’s a summary of several research areas in the STaRS Lab:

  • The STARS Lab is working with the Starkville Police Department SWAT Team to investigate the uses of a remotely-operated robot and a robot that has supervised autonomy capabilities in coordination with a SWAT team. In addition to developing tactics for a robot, the lab is examining which robot features are most useful to a SWAT team.  This project will save lives by helping law enforcement officers more safely handle the most dangerous situations.  The Army Research Laboratories Human Research and Engineering Directorate funds this research.
  • The Therabot team, funded by the National Science Foundation, is in the process of developing a robotic therapy support system. The goal is to provide a small robotic dog to people undergoing therapy, especially those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The robot will be used by patients to perform therapy exercises at home, enhancing the therapy experience, and supporting less frequent supervised therapy sessions.
  • The Interview team, funded by the National Science Foundation, investigates the use of robots as intermediaries for gathering sensitive information from children. Part of the project includes investigation of child eyewitness memory accounts and learning more about children’s experiences with bullying. This research explores whether there will be differences in the quantity and validity of information depending on whether the information is obtained from a human interviewer, robot interviewer, or a paper survey.

For more information on the STARS Lab, please visit their website.