Dr. Vroon, J.H.

Post-doctoral Researcher Social Interaction Dynamics
Department Design Engineering
Section Internet of Things

Fascination

There is an amazingly rich and varied range of behaviors that people use when they interact with machines. We get angry at our computers if they stop responding properly to our inputs, we get excited and distracted if we get a notification, and we sometimes bully robots just to see how they react.

As the machines and objects in our environment are slowly getting smarter and smarter – intelligent phones, pillows, clothing, social robots, etc. – we can start to consider how our devices could respond to all these behaviors. What if your computer would explain why it got less responsive if you got angry at it? What if a robot would try and improve its behavior, tweaking how it acts based on your reactions? What if a small machine could make us feel compassion, just because of the way it acts and experiences the world around it?

All these questions pose intriguing challenges for the design of behaviors suitable for these interaction dynamics. I am fascinated by the intricate patterns involved and enjoy using the tools of science to try and figure them out – preferably to the point where we can reproduce and apply them in the socially embodied systems all around us.

Biography

I am a post-doc at the Intelligence sub-section of the department of Design Engineering. Here, I am fortunate enough to be working on my fascination; interaction dynamics for socially embodied systems, and the development of the artificial intelligence required for that.

More specifically, I currently look into mobile delivery robots, and how they should navigate among and respond to pedestrians. This aligns nicely with my dissertation work, where I investigated the social positioning behaviors for mobile telepresence robots that supported social interactions in nursing homes for the elderly.

My background is in cognitive artificial intelligence – which focuses on models that replicate aspects of human behaviors/intelligence – and I aim to continuously enrich that background through interactions with other people. Of course these other people include my colleagues here at the department and broader university; but also, feel free to send me a message if you feel there could be an opportunity!

In addition to my experience as a researcher, I also very much love to draw inspiration from my more creative hobbies; modern dance, writing, and theatre.

Experience

  • PHD STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE
    2014 - 2018
    I worked on the Teresa project, where we investigated situations in which elderly are represented by a robot in social interactions with their peers. The robot was then to semi-autonomously display social behaviors that will help it integrate in the interaction.
    My focus was on the detection and understanding of the behavior of people interacting with the robot. On the one end of the spectrum, this involved using social signal processing to investigate and detect relevant social cues. On the other end, this was about finding out what kinds of behaviors people would prefer the robot to show in response to such cues. [my dissertation
  • RESEARCHER / DEVELOPER, NEDAP SECURITY MANAGEMENT
    2013 - 2014
    At Nedap I investigated the process of configuring security systems. This resulted in the development and implementation of a tool to make such configurations as intuitive as possible. 
  • SOFTWARE DEVELOPER, TOPICUS EDUCATION
    2012 - 2013
    My responsibilities at Topicus included code maintenance, the development of new features and the design of new core functionality. 
  • TEACHING ASSISTANT AI, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY
    2009 - 2010

Education

  • MASTER COGNITIVE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY
    2009 – 2011
    During my master, I investigated different paradigms (‘architectures’) that could be used to create (robotic) behavior. In my master’s thesis, I introduced a formal computational method for comparing such paradigms and used that to prove their relative efficiency in different kinds of situations. [my master’s thesis]
  • BACHELOR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY
    2006-2009
    For my bachelor’s thesis, I investigated a computer model of human/animal reinforcement learning in situations with non-deterministic rewards. [my bachelor’s thesis]

Lectures and/or coaches students on:

At the moment I am focusing on my research, so I am not directly involved in any courses (yet).

That said, I am always open for supervision of interesting student projects. So if you have any that you feel would fit my expertise, feel free to let me know. Master student supervision: 

  • JUDITH WEDA, UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE
    Graduated July 2018
    Supporting Shared Leadership in Human-Robot Teams with Minimal Robot Behavior 
  • JOSCA SNIPPE, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY NIJMEGEN
    Graduated October 2016
    Blame my Telepresence Robot: Joint Effect of Proxemics and Attribution on Interpersonal Attraction [published
  • NESTORAS FOUSTANAS, UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE
    Graduated August 2015
    Helping Elderly Users Control a Telepresence Robot with a Touch Screen
  • JAN KOLKMEIER, UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE
    Graduated June 2015
    Intimacy is Induced and Regulated through Proxemic & Gaze Behavior – A Study in Immersive Virtual Reality [published]