Lixiao Huang, Ph.D. | Human Factors and Applied Cognition
Postdoctoral Associate at Humans and Autonomy Lab (HAL) at Duke University
Ph.D. from Department of Psychology at NC State University
I am a Postdoctoral Associate working at Dr. Mary (Missy) Cummings' Humans and Autonomy Lab (HAL) at Duke University. I received my B.S. degree in Applied Psychology from Shanxi University in 2005, two master's degrees between 2006 and 2010 (a M.Ed. degree in Applied Psychology from Beijing Normal University and a M.S. degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Emporia State University), and a Ph.D. degree in Human Factors and Applied Cognition in Psychology department at NC State University in December 2016. My dissertation focused on humans' intrinsic motivation in interaction with robots and emotional attachment to robots.
The goal of my research on Human–Robot Interaction (HRI) is to make robots and everyday technologies easy and intuitive to use, so that humans' life quality and individual/organizational performance could be enhanced. My research vision includes three aspects: (1) humans' emotional, behavioral, and cognitive responses to robots, (2) the application of Human Factors to the usability issues in robot design, and (3) the effectiveness of robotics/HRI education, as reflected in my research vision figure below:
1) How do humans respond to robots and technologies behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively?
When many research questions in Human–Robot Interaction research are not explored, it is an effective approach to start with exploring humans’ responses to a variety of robots. I started with exploration with college level robot builders’ emotional attachment to their LEGO® NXT MINDSTORM® robots in fall 2012. A robotics education instructor, Dr. Terri Varnado, who observed that students were getting very sad when they were asked to dismantle their robots at the end of the semester, asked if I would be interested in doing research on it. The results of the first study confirmed students’ positive emotions toward robots, but the negative side was not as strong as expected from normal emotional attachment between humans. Later I studied participants in robotics tournaments. I have explored factors that influence robot builders' emotional attachment to their robots, as well as people’s basic psychological needs and motivations in robotics activities. I hope to use these findings to suggest possible improvements in the design of robots and HRI research. The research methods apply to other types of robots, such as service robots and social robots.
2) How to use human factors to improve the design of robots for better performance and user experiences?
A good understanding of humans’ responses to robots helps identify the critical issues in the robot design. My background in human factors provides a solid training in product usability analysis. I have volunteered as a robot design judge at a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League (FLL) qualifying tournament to train in robot design and also as a judge match observer at a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) qualifying tournament to learn robot performance evaluation. I can implement task analysis and collect best practices to incorporate human factors in tournament robot design. There are a lot of principles that middle school students and high school students can use to improve their robot design and achieve high performance. The design principles also may apply to other types of human–robot interfaces.
3) How to improve robotics education and HRI education?
The younger generation now will become the major users and designers in the future robotics industry, and thus it is important to increase their awareness, knowledge, and skills in robotics. I explored problem-solving skills through college students’ usage of problem-solving log templates, as well as metacognition through their reflection journals. I am interested in team formation dynamics and learning process through frequent visits to local robotics teams and tournaments. I am also interested in identifying the effective ways of teaching robotics through afterschool robotics clubs. In January 2016, IEEE Foundation grant awarded the IEEE ENCS Humanoid Robot project to work with a non-profit STEM education organization, the Forge Initiative, to teach K-12 students to build four humanoid robots and reach out to 4000 people. I am the project coordinator and one of the mentors of the team, so I have the opportunity to immerse in the learning environment for human factors issues in education and potential solutions.
The purpose of research methods is to answer research questions. It is often necessary to use multimodal analyses to explore one research question from different perspectives. I have had a solid training and extensive research experiences on both quantitative and qualitative methods and keep on learning and improving research techniques when I see fit. Below is a list of research methods that I am familiar with, but it is not exclusive.