Latest Events

Mechanics, Manipulation, and Perception of an Elastic Rod

This talk is about robotic manipulation of canonical "deformable linear objects" like a Kirchhoff elastic rod (e.g., a flexible wire). I continue to be amazed by how much can be gained by looking carefully at the mechanics of these objects and at the underlying mathematics. For example, did you know that the free configuration space of an elastic rod is path-connected? I'll prove it, and tell you why it matters.

Robotics Meets Virtual Reality

Roboticists are well positioned to strongly impact the rising field of virtual reality (VR). Using the latest technology, we can safely take control of your most trusted senses, thereby fooling your brain into believing you are in another world. VR has been around for a long time, but due to the recent convergence of sensing, display, and computation technologies, there is an unprecedented opportunity to explore this form of human augmentation with lightweight, low-cost materials and simple software platforms.

Coping with Uncertainty in Robotic Navigation, Exploration, and Grasping

A key challenge in robotics is to robustly complete navigation, exploration, and manipulation tasks when the state of the world is uncertain. This is a fundamental problem in several application areas such as logistics, personal robotics, and healthcare where robots with imprecise actuation and sensing are being deployed in unstructured environments. In such a setting, it is necessary to reason about the acquisition of perceptual knowledge and to perform information gathering actions as necessary.

Interaction as Manipulation

The goal of my research is to enable robots to autonomously produce behavior that reasons about function _and_ interaction with and around people. I aim to develop a formal understanding of interaction that leads to algorithms which are informed by mathematical models of how people interact with robots, enabling generalization across robot morphologies and interaction modalities.

Robots, Skills, and Symbols

Robots are increasingly becoming a part of our daily lives, from the automated vacuum cleaners in our homes to the rovers exploring Mars. However, while recent years have seen dramatic progress in the development of affordable, general-purpose robot hardware, the capabilities of that hardware far exceed our ability to write software to adequately control.

The actuation and the control of the MIT Cheetah

Biological machines created by millions of years of evolution suggest a paradigm shift in robotic design. Realizing animals’ magnificent locomotive capabilities is next big challenge in mobile robotic applications. The main theme of MIT Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory is innovation through ‘principle extraction’ from biology. The embodiment of such innovations includes Stickybot that employs the world’s first synthetic directional dry adhesive inspired by geckos, and the MIT Cheetah, designed after the fastest land animal.

Project Wing: Self-flying vehicles for Package Delivery

Autonomous UAVs, or "self-flying vehicles", hold the promise of transforming a number of industries, and changing how we move things around the world. Building from the foundation of decades of research in autonomy and UAVs, Google launched Project Wing in 2012 and recently announced trials of a delivery service using a small fleet of autonomous UAVs in Australia. In this talk, I will provide an introduction to the work Google has been doing in developing this service, describe the capabilities (and limitations) of the vehicles, and talk briefly about the promise of UAVs in general.

Reach Out and Touch Something

Haptic rendering is the application of forces in a virtual environment to a user interface (such as a flight control stick, haptic glove or surgical robot hand controls). The virtual environment can represent a physical environment, it can be fully synthetic (like in a video game), or it can be an augmented reality combination representing both physical and synthetic components. In this virtual environment, motions of the hand control device interact with a virtual representation of the physical environment, and kinesthetic feedback is provided to the user.

Towards Continual Topological Mapping with Introspection

For robust, life-long autonomous operation in dynamic unstructured environments, mobile robots must contend with vast amounts of continually evolving data. The exploring robot must adapt to its environment and refine its workspace representation with new observations. The key competency we seek is “introspection”: to ability to determine what is perplexing, which can further drive active information acquisition or human disambiguation. The talk explores this in the context of place recognition and semantic mapping.