I am thrilled to join the 2013 class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers. The NG Explorers Symposium in June should be an excellent event. Anastasia Cronin took the picture of me for my Explorer profile when she visited Willow Garage, and drove a PR2 around to retrieve various objects (from an RMS web interface).
Demonstration video of using RMS for mobile manipulation with KUKA YouBot and (0:21) Willow Garage PR2:
As a side note, this was my favorite congratulatory message:
On Thu, May 16, 2013 at 5:59 PM, Littman, Michael wrote:
In my field, I think it’s always better to be an explorer than an exploiter.
It is great to hear that the NSF has awarded a $5M grant to form the nationwide iAAMCS Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences.
the newly combined Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS, pronounced “i am cs”) will serve as a national resource and emphasize mentoring as the primary strategy for increasing the participation of African-Americans in computing, specifically at the Ph.D. level and beyond. The overarching goal of the iAAMCS is to increase the number of African-Americans obtaining computing sciences doctoral degrees leading to an increase in the number of African-American researchers in the academy, government, and industry. Toward this goal, the iAAMCS Alliance will (1) increase the number of African-American Ph.D. graduates who enter the workforce with a research focus; (2) retain and advance African-American Ph.D. students, faculty and researchers in computing; and (3) develop future African-American leaders with computing expertise in the academy, government, and industry.
With my awesome collaborators (Michael Littman and Bertram Malle), we had the Second Human-Robot Interaction Symposium at Brown last week. It was amazing to see the excellence and breadth of research among the faculty at Brown and collaborators from other local institutions. Through its strength of interdisciplinary collaboration, Brown and the Providence area is in a great position to address the technological challenges and societal needs for realizing robots that benefit humanity, improving both productivity and quality of life across society. Robotics is at the beginnings of revolutionizing society in the next 40 years similar to how computing revolutionized the past 40 years.
That said, one of my favorite parts of the symposium was using my Suitable Beam remote presence device to wrangle people into the meeting room (along with a gratuitous pic of Providence from the Beam). Thanks to the ICERM staff for being wonderful hosts and Tom Sgouros for getting the Beam working during the symposium.
Had fun last week flying Parrot AR.Drone quad rotor helicopters with Henry Evans of Robots for Humanity. Through a web interface created by Brown Robotics with rosbridge and ROS, Henry uses the drones to explore and monitor his home. Not only is Henry fun to hang around, he is a better pilot that I am (for now). More about Henry’s work with personal robotics can be found on the Robots for Humanity page, excerpted below:
“Henry Evans is a mute quadriplegic, having suffered a stroke when he was just 40 years old. Following extensive therapy, Henry regained the ability to move his head and use a finger, which allows him to operate computers… [This] demonstrates how people with severe physical disabilities could use personal robots to gain independence… Currently, Henry uses a head tracker to operate a variety of experimental user interfaces. These interfaces allow him to directly move the robot’s body, including its arms and head… Robots that complement human abilities are extremely valuable, especially when they help us do things that we can’t do by ourselves.”
It is worth noting that the same web interface for driving the AR.Drone can be readily used to drive a PR2 robot. This interoperability is due to the use of rosbridge as a network messaging protocol, allowing robot web apps to speak to a variety of different robots.
Code for this project is available at this repository, and uses rosbridge, mjpeg_server, and ardrone_autonomy ROS packages.
Friday was my last day working with Russell. I am really looking forward to working with Russell and his advisor, Sonia Chernova, on cloud robotics projects upon returning to Brown this Summer.
Paul Myoda, a kinetic sculptor at Brown, sent me a copy of his new book Glittering Machines. There are some amazing images in this book. As a roboticist, I was geeking out that he included VGo telepresence robot (p. 52), which might be from my lab (maybe?).
Even though I am on sabbatical in California, I still have to travel for various great opportunities related to my research in Human-Robot Interaction. This week, I travel back to campus to work with my colleagues on ways for robotics to improve society, which is extremely exciting. The downside is that my children have to go a week without their father. They know Daddy works with robots, but are not completely sure exactly what I do with these robots. So, to help my kids both not miss me too much and understand my work, I created this video that explains some of my work in robot learning from demonstration using something they enjoy, my Bill Cosby impression. Not that my impression is any good, it does seem to keep their attention. Will have to see how much they can say about my research when I get back at the end of the week.