Dr. Bhavani Rao UNESCO Chair, Gender Equality & Women's Empowerment (India) Director, AMMACHI Labs Director, CWEGE Associate Professor
Dr. Bhavani Rao is the Head for the UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Director of AMMACHI Labs, the human computer interaction research and development center at Amrita University, Kerala, India. She has been innovating educational technologies since 1995, exploring the potential for serious games, animation and audio-visual media to augment traditional learning, bridge language barriers and enable learning for low literacy users on a broad variety of subjects. In 2009, Dr. Bhavani, drawing from her extensive experience in the domain, founded the AMMACHI (Amrita Multi-Modal Applications and Computer-Human Interaction) Labs at Amrita University in order to innovate and deploy new applications in learning technologies to benefit the poor with a special focus on women from socio-economically underserved communities. Technologies and research from AMMACHI Labs include pioneering work on technology-enhanced learning and computerized vocational education training delivered through multimedia enriched applications and innovative, cost-effective haptic simulators for perfecting manual skills. Dr. Bhavani is the Principal Investigator for several projects at Amrita, funded by organizations such as the United Nations Democracy Fund and the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, NORRAG and UNESCO. A central focus on her work has been to explore the use of skill development as the baseline strategy, and women empowerment as the underlying vision. Her current project is a massive sanitation awareness campaign and infrastructure development initiative that empowers women in rural communities to become ambassadors of change. The project educates women about sanitation practices, and skills such as masonry and plumbing, to build and maintain their own toilets – a practice that benefits them and their entire community. The skill education is delivered using learning technologies developed at AMMACHI Labs, which at its core takes on a Human-Centered Design approach and incorporates the practical application of Computer-Human Interaction (CHI), UX design and pushes the envelope in the field of using Haptics and Robotics for sustained social impact. Dr. Bhavani’s current focus areas include Learning Technologies, Disaster Management and Vulnerability Mapping.