Maja J Matarić

Professor and Chan Soon-Shiong Chair in Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics
Vice Dean for Research, Viterbi School of Engineering
Director, Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center (RASC)
Co-Director, Robotics Research Lab
University of Southern California

Ph.D., Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, MIT, 1994

photo by Phil Channing


Goals: My research is aimed at endowing robots with the ability to help people, especially those with special needs. I am inspired by the dual goals of 1) gaining novel insights into human behavior and cognition through human-machine interaction and 2) developing robotic systems capable of providing personalized assistance in convalescence, rehabilitation, skill training, and education. My Interaction Lab focuses on socially assistive systems capable of aiding people through social interaction rather than through physical contact; we work with stroke patients, children with autism spectrum disorders, children at risk for obesity, individuals suffering from dementia/Alzheimer's Disease, elderly aging-in-place or in managed care and healthy users across the age-span. Our research involves developing human-machine interaction (and in particular human-robot interaction, HRI) methods for enabling technology-assisated diagnosis, assessment, intervention, and/or therapy. To address the inherently interdisciplinary challenges of this research, we draw on theories, models, and collaborations from neuroscience, cognitive science, social science, health sciences, and education.

Projects: The Interaction Lab projects focus on human-robot interaction (HRI) for socially assistive robotics (SAR). This involves the study of embodied communication and interaction, multi-modal activity understanding, social dynamics steering, and long-term user modeling and adaptation, all with the goal of enabling interaction with real users in real-world (and thus complex, dynamic, and uncertain) environments such as health care and elder care facilities, schools, and homes. (The Lab's earlier work, no longer being pursued, focused on synthesis and analysis of adaptive group behavior for distributed multi-robot control and learning.) More information about our research areas is found here, research domains are listed here, and projects are listed here. Interested students should look here.

Methodology: My group's projects involve algoritm and method development and evaluation with physical sensors and/or robots in user studies with participants from the relevant user populations, involving rigorous experimental design and evaluation.


In my role as vice dean for research, I aim to facilitate and enhance collaborative, interdisciplinary research in the Viterbi School of Engineering, and promote a research culture that aims to address societally relevant challenges facing our world today, as outlined in the Viterbi School Research Vision.


I am passionate about conveying the excitement and promise of interdisciplinary engineering research and careers in STEM to all who should know more, from K-12 students and teachers, to girls and women and other under-represented groups in engineering, to the media, to the entertainment industry, to policy makers. I am also passionate about the vast potential for human-centered affordable technologies and especially socially assistive robotics as a means of improving human quality of life by enhancing care and enjoy presenting and being part of discourse on various topics of robotics and other technologies for health, elder care, and education.

Contact Information

Computer Science Department
University of Southern California
Office: Ronald Tutor Hall (RTH) 407
Mailing address: 3650 McClintock Avenue, OHE 200
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1450 USA
(213) 740-4520 office (rarely effective, email is much better)
(213) 821-5696 shared fax (please use a cover sheet)
(213) 740-6245 lab (you will reach my students)
(213) 740-0622 dean's office assistant (edwardav (at)
mataric (at) usc (dot) edu

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