Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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NSERC Prizes 2020: Tovi Grossman

Department of Computer Science
University of Toronto


Video name

NSERC Prizes 2020: Tovi Grossman


NSERC Communications



Release date

June 12, 2021


Artificial intelligence, wearable tech and virtual reality are rapidly evolving and weaving their ways into our homes, schools and workplaces. Some people are concerned that robots will soon replace humans in the workforce, but Tovi Grossman sees automation as a chance for us to evolve the way we teach and learn.

In Grossmanís lab, allowing computers to handle some aspects of a task can actually free people to focus on other details and acquire new skills. The University of Toronto expert in human-computer interaction leads a team developing technologies that balance the technical precision of computers with the creativity and ingenuity of humans. Some of their developments include AI-assisted drone navigation that handles fine-tuned steering in tight spaces, while an operator focuses on speed and direction; wearable sensors that capture the intricate movements behind grip and touch, so our hands can perform nimble tasks in virtual environments; and software interfaces that encourage users to try tools and menu items to advance their expertise more quickly. With Grossmanís contributions, technologies like these will not only make our lives easier but help us realize our full potential, too.

Tovi Grossman

I think looking at how humans interact with automation is going to be absolutely huge. I think basically every industry is going to have some aspect of that.

So thereís a lot of attention right now into not just new technologies but AI and machine learning and even robotics and a lot of talk about these are going to potentially take our jobs.

The research that Iím doing can apply broadly to really understand where is the line you want to draw in terms of how much automation is really going to be beneficial at a high level versus that manual or human component.

And I think the most powerful interfaces are going to be the ones where itís a bit of myself doing it but also a bit of the automation so I can leverage what the computer is really good at but leverage my own skills and creativity as well.

As technologies evolve the ways in which we can learn new things are also evolving. We found there are things you can inject into the user interface that just give people little nudges to change their behaviours and get to that next plateau of performance.

Weíve done projects where you can ambiently display alternative workflows or commands or features that the user might want to use and sort of just gradually progress along that learning curve.

Every time there is an evolution in technology it gives us a chance to step back and think about what is the implication that might have on our lives and, for me, how might that change the way we learn and become better people.