I am Associate Professor in Social Robotics and Language Development at Tilburg University’s Department of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence, part of the Tilburg School for Humanities and Digital Sciences. I also coordinate the Interactive Robotics and Cognitive Systems Lab at MindLabs.
My research focuses on studying how we can develop social robots for educational purposes. For instance to support second language learning (see the L2TOR project), but also concerning other domains of learning. A central theme in my research is how to design effective and meaningful interactions between robots and children.
Together with my team, we design interactions based on our understanding of cultural, social and cognitive mechanisms that underlie the development of language and communication. The theories on embodied cognition and usage-based development are at the core of our approach. Our research not only helps to develop social robots for learning, but also helps to understand how humans learn.
I take a multidisciplinary approach in my research: ranging from artificial intelligence and psycholinguistics to ethnographic research and developmental psychology; using a variety of methods: agent-based computer modelling, robotics, word learning experiments, naturalistic observations and cross-cultural comparisons. Following embodied cognition and an usage-based approach to language development, I assume that humans learn language by its use in interactions with their environment, and consequently that variation across individuals, cultures and social backgrounds can explain variation in language development.