Headshot of Rocco

Rocco Ruan

Masters' Student
Computer Science

Hey! My name is Rocco - I’m currently a PhD-track Master’s student in Computer Science at UBC, in Prof. Karon MacLean’s SPIN Lab. Previously, I completed a BASc in Engineering Science at the University of Toronto, majoring in Robotics Engineering. I recognize that I’m pretty fortunate to be getting the education I am, especially as technology becomes a bigger part of our lives. Outside my career, I’m also the only child of Hong Kong/Chinese parents, who came to Canada without any post-secondary education. As time goes on, I can see my relative fluency in science and technology paying more and more dividends, while my parents find it harder and harder to keep up with things like online banking, QR code menus, and what cryptocurrency even is. As such, rather than strictly focusing on pushing the boundaries of technology, I’m currently pretty interested in helping different groups of people catch up to the latest frontiers of tech, while also finding ways in which that technology can help them. More details are in the Research Interests section below. While I’m not helping my parents read their emails, I like to play Ultimate, rock climb, and try new video games.

Research Interests

In general, I think I’d like my research to take the following directions: Identifying novel and useful ways that technology can serve people who need it most, and demonstrating the viability of such new approaches, and Finding ways to include and empower the potential users of a technology throughout its life cycle, from its development, to its deployment, through to its day-to-day usage. Right now, I’m working on SPIN Lab’s ESSbots project, which aims to use swarm robots as a user interface for people to interact with their friend groups. The intended user group is adolescents, who may benefit from richer, more affective and physical forms of online interaction to make up for the deficiencies in social media as it exists today. Participatory design workshops are being integrated very early on in the process. Overall, I’m interested in learning about and using a mix of different technologies in my research work, such as robotics, machine learning, AR/VR, online content, and video games. I’d also like to deploy different types of research methods in my work, with an emphasis on interviews, field studies, and workshops, which can help create and maintain dialogue with relevant communities throughout the research process.