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Research

I am Jason R. Wilson,  and this is the home of my research, my interests, my passion. Emotions affect all parts of our lives, from how we perceive the world to how we interact with people.  We hear a song on the radio, it reminds us of that wonderful vacation, and we start to feel warm, relaxed, and happy.  Or we are in a bad mood, for whatever reason, and then someone asks us a question and we give a snippy remark or answer sharply and with a negative tone.  How emotions work is not clear, but it is clear that it was a broad effect on our lives.

My research started out developing computational models of emotion.  This included a model of emotion appraisal resulting from an analogical comparison of the situation to be appraised and a previous similar situation.  I also developed a model of moral reasoning that represents the impact of empathy on perceptions of permissibility.

More recently, my research has shifted to socially assistive robots, which are social robots designed to provide assistance to a person (from pedagogical assistance to rehabilitation).  More specifically, I have been designing a Socially Assistive Robot for Older Adults (SAROA), a robot that addresses the unique needs of older adults.  Older adults bring many challenges to designing robots.  Some older adults have strong cognitive capabilities but are experiencing challenges with motor skills.  Others have just the reverse, normal motor capabilities but some cognitive impairments.  The living situation for older adults also brings some interesting challenges.  Many may live with a spouse or family member.  Not only should how the robot assists the older adult be acceptable to the other members of the home, but ideally the robot should lessen the burden on these people and possibly be able to facilitate care or communication.

My work with robots is not unrelated to my original passion of affective cognition.  Rather, it is strongly related and on many levels.  A robot that can recognize the emotion of the person it is assisting should be able to more appropriately respond to the person’s needs.  A robot could also influence a person’s mood, by telling jokes or playing that favorite song.  Or it can listen to a person tell a sad story and show signs of empathy.  A robot also serves as a wonderful platform for studying emotions.  It is the best* confederate in an experiment because we can ensure it also acts in the exact same manner.

Currently, I am writing about SAROA and how they can help preserve the sense of dignity of older adults while assisting them.  This work uses experiments, computational models, simulations, and data analytics. Updates on this work and some of my other passion will periodically be posted here.