Yun Seong Song to research human-robot communication under NSF CAREER award

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Dr. Yun Seong Song, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, one of the NSF’s most prestigious awards. The five-year, award will support Dr. Song’s research on using intuitive sensorimotor communication to advance physical human-robot interaction.

As robotic systems become more prevalent in everyday life from materials handling in the manufacturing industry or patient care in clinical settings, humans and robots will need to communicate and interpret each other’s intentions intuitively and effectively. According to Dr. Song, this project focuses on understanding how a human and a robot can communicate each other’s intent through impedance modulation at a single point of physical contact.

“At first look, physical interaction is a dynamic task with power exchanges dictated by the passive properties of the interacting dyad,” explains Dr. Song, the director of the physical Human-Robot Interaction Laboratory (pHRI-Lab), “but if you examine how humans handle physical interaction, you realize that there is a lot of information exchange modulated by the brain while taking advantage of the unique biomechanical hardware. Uncovering this mechanism will help us design future robots that can seamlessly interact with their human partners.”

The project will utilize a unique robotic system, built in pHRI-Lab, that interacts with a human as they walk “hand-in-hand” while analyzing the forces at the hands and movements of the arms throughout different scenarios. The work behind this project will create the groundwork for implementing intuitive physical communication between humans and robots.

The NSF CAREER award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through their outstanding research and education contributions. This recognition ranks Dr. Song among the best early career researchers across the U.S.

Dr. Song joined S&T in 2016 after working as a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. Dr. Song’s research expertise is in physical human-robot interaction, physical human-human interaction, human movement assistance, rehabilitation robotics, wearable devices, energy-harvesting from human movement, and design and instrumentation of medical devices. He received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.