Jina Huh-Yoo, PhD Wins NSF CAREER Award to Investigate the Role of Conversational AI Systems for Caregiving

Jina Huh-Yoo, PhD, assistant professor of information science at Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics (CCI), is the recipient of the 2022 National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development (CAREER) award. The CAREER award is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Huh-Yoo joins the ranks of nine other Drexel CCI faculty members who have earned NSF CAREER awards.

The award will support Huh-Yoo’s project titled “DURAIS: A Platform for Co-Designing and Understanding the Roles of Conversational Artificial Intelligence Systems on Caregiving.” This work is in partnership with Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP), the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan State University in investigating the role of conversational artificial intelligence (AI) systems in addressing the needs of caregivers caring for their family members.

As AI has grown exponentially over the past decade, there remains significant room for enhancements in conversational agent technology – especially for use by caregivers. “Voice technology research has been around since the 70s ... now it's driven and trained by AI. It's getting smarter, but it's just not smart enough,” Huh-Yoo said. The project aims to improve conversational AI systems (technology that includes applications like Alexa and Siri) to specifically help caregivers in a home setting.

Focused on identifying the social and technical boundaries of how AI systems can support caregiving, Huh-Yoo will co-design a program with domain experts and caregivers. The project will start by collecting information from formative interviews and analyzing conversational data sources of caregiver support activities to assess how caregiving work can be supported, reduced, or automated through conversational AI systems.

“Caregiving itself is a huge area with various contexts. We are approaching this challenge from a broader definition, so even parenting young children is part of the caregiving definition we’re examining. For now, we’re focused on caregiving when it comes to older adults and people living with dementia,” Huh-Yoo said.

Beyond researching the caregiving domain and running usability tests, the project will establish a collaborative development platform to integrate expert and caregiver input. This research will contribute to testing how conversational AI systems co-design can resolve persisting challenges in caregiving and evaluate how AI can uniquely support people caring for loved ones at home. As a wide spectrum of caregivers from different backgrounds will be integrated into this investigation and application design, this project will broadly contribute to understanding best practices for co-designing AI systems that support socially and culturally complex and demanding work.

Huh-Yoo’s research areas include human-computer interaction, health informatics, and digital research ethics. Her other research projects include working with community leaders in Philadelphia to support the mental health of youth through resilience supporting social technology, understanding peer support among youth on social media, and leveraging community-based telehealth system to address health disparity among older adults with limited English proficiency. In collaboration with PRIMR, she is funded by NSF to assemble experts in research ethics to host a public workshop in 2023 about re-examining existing ethical principles for conducting digital research. She was a PI of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Career Development Award for improving online health information quality using natural language processing (NLP) in online health communities, as well as a PI for the NSF Smart and Connected Health Program to develop acoustic sensing and awareness system for family wellness, specifically child obesity prevention. Her work has been published at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work And Social Computing (CSCW), Journal of Biomedical Informatics, Journal of Medical Internet Research, and International Journal of Medical Informatics.

She holds a PhD in Information (specializing in human-computer interaction) from the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; a Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University; and a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Design from the School of Film and Multimedia at the Korea National University of Arts in Seoul, Korea.

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