Course Information (Syllabus)


Sarah Sebo
Sarah Sebo (she/her/hers)
personal website
Office hours: Tue 4-5pm, Thurs 9-10am (CST)

Class Sessions

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9:10 - 10:00am CST
Online (synchronous): Access Zoom link through Canvas

Course Registration

Please visit the course registration page for information on how to register for the course.

Course Resources

Course Description

The field of human-robot interaction (HRI) is a new and growing field of research, seeking to create seamless interactions between people and robots. Applications of HRI research include developing robots to tutor elementary students, assist human workers in manufacturing contexts, provide museum tours, interact with families within their homes, and help care for the elderly. The field of HRI is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating methods and techniques from human-computer interaction, robotics, psychology, artificial intelligence, and other fields. This course exposes students to a broad range of recent and cutting-edge research in HRI. The topics covered in this course include: nonverbal robot behavior, verbal robot behavior, social dynamics, norms & ethics, collaboration & learning, group interactions, applications, and future challenges of HRI. The course meetings will primarily consist of group discussions of HRI research papers. This course is offered as both a seminar and an elective. For students who choose to take the course as an elective, they will complete a course project. The course has no prerequisites, however backgrounds in robotics or human-computer interaction is encouraged. Programming knowledge is not necessary, however, may be useful for those students completing a course project.

Learning Objectives

  1. You will obtain a broad understanding and exposure to cutting-edge research in the field of Human-Robot Interaction through course readings and discussions of those readings.
  2. You will cultivate analytical and critical thinking skills when evaluating research in HRI through leading class discussions and making analytical comments on the readings.
  3. You will gain hands-on HRI research experience through the course project.

Course Communication

A Note on Learning in this Unprecedented Time

I want to acknowledge that all of our lives are being affected by the current covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing racial unrest and injustice in this country. Although we will not be meeting in person this quarter, my aim is to continue to further your education and career goals through your participation and work in this course, while being sensitive to the times we are living in. During this quarter, I acknowledge that you may be caring for others (emotionally, physically, psychologically, and financially) and have barriers to your productive online learning (your WiFi connection, the lack of a quiet place to work, your electronic devices, and time to devote to your studies). Thus, I am committed to being flexible in how you are evaluated in this course (see the 'Flexibility' policy in the 'Grading' section below) as well as how you participate in this course (e.g., I will not require your camera to be on during our Zoom meetings).

During this quarter, I encourage you to prioritize your health and overall well-being. Also, keep in mind that others in this course may be experiencing a different day-to-day reality than you. Lastly, I sincerely ask that you communicate with me so that I can best support you, set you up for success in this course, and respond to the changing circumstances in our lives.


You are welcome to participate in this seminar even if you are not taking the course for a letter grade. If you choose to take the course for a letter grade, it counts as a human-computer interactions elective for PhD students and as a CMSC elective (as well as towards honors credit) for undergraduate students.

Analytical Comments and Questions on the Readings

For each class meeting, we will discuss one academic research paper. In order to get the most out of class discussions, you are required to submit at least one analytical comment on each research paper by 8am CST the morning before class. You will make these analytical comments using the Google Chrome plugin and making your annotations visible within the group "CMSC33281 Fall 2020". Your analytical comment should be a minimum of 2-3 sentences in length and should showcase critical thinking about the paper, for example, your analytical comment could:

You may make more than one analytical comment if you wish. Additionally, if you have any questions about the content of the paper please also ask them using a annotation. Please feel free to also answer each others' questions and follow up on other people's comments. These annotations are designed to store all communications and student perspectives about the research paper in one place before the class discussion.

Additionally, if we are hosting a guest speaker in class, who will be presenting their work (that we will also have read before their presentation), you are required to submit at least one question related to the research paper by 8am CST the morning before class. Just like the analytical comments, you will submit your question using

Discussion Leadership

At several points during the semester, you will be asked to lead a class discussion. You will prepare 5 slides that you will present in no more than 5 minutes:

Your slides must be uploaded in PDF format to this Google Drive folder by 9am the day BEFORE the class when you are to lead the class discussion (24 hours in advance). I have shared the Google Drive folder with each of your UChicago email addresses, feel free to request editing permission if you prefer using a different email address. Also, please make sure that your name is on the first slide and name the PDF file after the first author last name, the year the paper was published, your early/later discussion group membership, and your own name (e.g. "Bainbridge_2011_early_Sarah_Sebo"). Please upload your PDF presentation to the "Discussion Lead Slides" folder on Google Drive. Uploading your slides 24 hours in advance of the class will allow the other students in the class to view your slides and the discussion questions, if they so choose, in order to best prepare for the class discussion.


The course project is your chance to gain hands on HRI research experience. You can find more details on the project page.


This class is designed to facilitate active and critical discussions about cutting-edge work in the field of human-robot interaction. You are expected to come to every discussion prepared and ready to engage. Your participation in these discussions will be evaluated on your ability to demonstrate critical thinking about the HRI research papers and will NOT be evaluated by how many times you speak. If you cannot attend a class due to a professional or personal reason, please notify me ahead of time.


To accomodate learning during the covid-19 pandemic and ongoing racial unrest and injustice, the course grading is flexible to the following exceptions without penalty:

Beyond these exceptions, if your circumstances require additional flexibility, please reach out to me.

Late Assignments

A late assignment is one that does not provide the requested deliverable (e.g., analytical comment, project proposal, discussion lead slides) in the requested format by the stated deadline. Late assignments will be docked 10% of the total grade for each 24 hours period, up to 3 days, that they are late. After three days, the assignment will receive a zero.

The only exceptions to this policy are listed in the 'Flexibility' section above and in case of emergency. If you experience an emergency, please take care of the situation at hand, and afterwards please reach out to me so that we can discuss a best path forward.


Academic Integrity

In this course, we abide by the University of Chicago's Policy on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism. If you violate this policy (depending on the severity of the offense) you risk being dismissed from this course. All cases will be referred to the Dean of Students office, which may impose further penalties, including suspension and expulsion. If you have any questions about whether an activity or written work would constitute cheating or plagiarizing, please ask.

With respect to this course, please ensure that you appropriately cite all academic work that you paraphrase or quote.

Zoom Code of Conduct

For each meeting of this course, we will be using the Zoom video conferencing software. To help your peers and the professor refer to you using your preferred name and pronouns, please edit your name in your Zoom profile. For our class meetings, please join on time. Also, please mute yourself upon your arrival into the Zoom room and unmute yourself when you would like to speak. Feel free to use the "raise hand" feature (on the "participants" panel) to indicate that you would like to contribute to the discussion or write your comment in the chat if your background is noisy and you do not want to unmute. You may show your video, however, this is not required.

University Recording and Deletion Policy

The Recording and Deletion Policies for the current academic year can be found in the Student Manual under Petitions, Audio & Video Recording on Campus.

UChicago Health Pact and Reporting COVID-19 Related Concerns, Exposure, or a Confirmed Case

All students on campus are required to adhere to the guidelines in the UChicago Health Pact in order to promote a safe environment.

The complete text of the UChicago Health Pact along with additional information about COVID-19 protocols can be found on UChicago's Go Forward site.

Any concerns over inappropriate PPE usage, physical distancing, cleaning/disinfection, or other COVID-19 related public health concerns should be directed to UCAIR. If there is an emergency, call 773-702-8181 or dial 123 on any campus phone.

If you were potentially exposed to COVID-19 or your COVID-19 test results come back positive, reach out immediately to

Students who have been exposed to or who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact UChicago Student Wellness immediately to be tested, and reach out to their area Dean of Students to request accommodations for classes until:

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I stand with the University of Chicago in my dedication to "creating an environment where people of different backgrounds feel valued and where their ideas and contributions can flourish" (see UChicago's Diversity Commitment Statement). I strive to make this classroom environment one where the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of each individual are valued and included for the benefit of us all, including gender identity, sexuality, disability, generational status, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, and culture. I expect that all class related interactions will be conducted with mutual respect, open communication, and non-discrimination. If you have any suggestions for how we can better promote an inclusive and open environment, please reach out to me.


The University of Chicago and I are committed to ensuring equitable access to academic programs and services. Students with disabilities who have been approved for the use of academic accommodations by Student Disability Services (SDS) and need a reasonable accommodation(s) to participate fully in this course should follow the procedures established by SDS for using accommodations. Timely notifications are required in order to ensure that your accommodations can be implemented. Please meet with me to discuss your access needs in this class after you have completed the SDS procedures for requesting accommodations.

Phone: (773) 702-6000

Sexual Misconduct

The University of Chicago is "committed to taking necessary action to stop, prevent, and remedy instances of sexual misconduct" (see the University of Chicago's website for the Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Support). Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Sexual misconduct is unacceptable at the University of Chicago, including any interactions that occur related to this course.

If you would like to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, want more information about filing a report, or have questions about school policies and procedures, please contact our Title IX Coordinator. In certain situations, the University may have an institutional obligation to respond to a report of sexual misconduct. Additionally, as a faculty member, I am required by Title IX and the University of Chicago to report incidents of sexual misconduct, even if I am requested to keep the information confidential.


As you pursue your education, your health and overall wellbeing is extremely important. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this quarter by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. Despite our best efforts, all of us benefit from support at times. Asking for support when a problem is small can help keep it from growing larger, but there is no wrong time to ask for help. If you or someone you know could benefit from mental health services, I strongly recommend that you reach out to UChicago Student Wellness, whose services do not come at any additional cost to students. Additionally, If a personal emergency arises that may impact your work in this course, please alert me so that the appropriate arrangements can be made.


This course is centered around the excellent recent work in the field of Human-Robot Interaction. The policies outlined in this syllabus was informed and adapted from those of Henny Admoni, Ravi Chugh, Blase Ur, and Marshini Chetty.