Micol Spitale



Micol Spitale is currently a PostDoctoral Researcher at the Affective Intelligence & Robotics Laboratory (AFAR Lab), Department of Computer Science & Technology, University of Cambridge, UK under the supervision of Prof. Hatice Gunes. Her research activities are grounded in the Social Robotics area. She has a strong background in affective computing, child-robot interaction, and machine learning applications to human behavioural analysis. Her current research focuses on developing socio-emotionally adaptive robots that can foster wellbeing through coaching and psychologically proven interventions. She has been awarded “cum laude” a Ph.D. in Information Technology, Computer Science and Engineering Area at the Politecnico di Milano, co-funded by IBM Italy and EIT Digital, in October 2021, under the supervision of Prof. Franca Garzotto. During her Ph.D., she spent several months at the University of Southern California (USC) in the Interaction Lab as a visiting Ph.D. student, where she explored the use of robots for eliciting empathy during storytelling activities under the supervision of the Prof. Maja Matarić.

AFAR Lab YouTube channel


The Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) reported that mental health conditions have increased by 13% in the last decade. One of WHO’s main goals is to improve the mental health of individuals and society at large. This includes the promotion of mental well-being, the prevention of mental issues, and efforts to increase access to quality mental health care. However, those objectives are still not accomplished in our society because of the wide gap between those who require care and those who have access to it. Various research works in social robotics and human-robot interaction suggest that robots can be used as novel tools to help assess and promote mental well-being in people by offering affordable and accessible mental health services.

In this talk, I will present the various studies we have been conducting at the Cambridge Affective Intelligence and Robotics Lab to explore how robots can help in the assessment and promotion of mental well-being in adults and children. More specifically, I will provide both quantitative and qualitative results and findings from (i) an empirical study to aid the evaluation of mental well-being in children, (ii) three participatory design studies for designing robotic coaches to promote mental well-being, (iii) one wizard-of-oz study where a robot delivered meditation sessions over multiple weeks, and (iv) two empirical studies in real world settings where robots aimed to promote mental well-being by delivering various practices over multiple weeks. My hope is that these findings will inform and help the HRI community in designing and developing new adaptive robots that can help people assess, maintain and improve their mental well-being.


  • Deploying Robotic Mental Well-being Coaches in the Workplace (to appear as full paper in the Proceedings of ACM/IEEE HRI 2023)
  • Robots as Mental Well-being Coaches: Design and Ethical Recommendations (link)
  • Measuring Mental Wellbeing of Children via Human-Robot Interaction: Challenges and Opportunities (link)
  • Computational Audio Modelling for Robot-Assisted Assessment of Children’s Mental Wellbeing (link)
  • Affective Robotics For Wellbeing: A Scoping Review (link)
  • Can Robots Help in the Evaluation of Mental Wellbeing in Children? An Empirical Study (link)
  • Teleoperated robot coaching for mindfulness training: A longitudinal study (link)
  • Participatory Design of a Robotic Mental Well-being Coach (link)