Defense dollars aid Carnegie Mellon's robotics research
A robot named Andy slowly scans a table and announces its goal in a distinctly British accent.
“I'm searching for a lug nut,” Andy says as Drew Bagnell and a team of researchers demonstrate their latest achievements in Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center.
DARPA, the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency, is funding research on Robot ARM-S, short for Autonomous Robotic Manipulation Software Track, a system in which the robot can tackle tasks independently and learn from them.
The agency has funded a variety of Carnegie Mellon projects, including research on a flying car; development of an interactive, game-like curriculum for math and science education; and Mind's Eye, an ongoing project to perfect a surveillance system with intelligent software that will recognize human activities, flag unusual behavior and predict who might be dangerous.
In the ARM-S lab in a renovated 100-year-old factory in Lawrenceville, the lug nut exercise calls for Andy to “see” an object and pick it up in slow motions that mimic human movement.
“This robot is focused on perception integrated with manipulation. It's trying to see the lug nut and pick it up as opposed to executing a motion that does the same thing over and over again,” said Bagnell, an associate professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon.
Eventually, the project calls for Andy to use lug nuts to mount a wheel on a frame. It can mount the wheel, but to secure it, it will need smaller hands.
When DARPA started the project in 2010, the agency said its goal was to develop robots that could perform military tasks without intense human oversight.
Intel Corp., the computer chip manufacturer, became a project sponsor when it saw the potential for development of domestic robots.
“Our goal for the next phase of this project is how we can apply the technology of this program to intelligent prosthetics,” Bagnell said.
Bagnell's team is working on the software that animates Andy, fashioning algorithms for the billions of calculations the robot must make for even the smallest task.
“It makes a lot of mistakes, but it is intelligent enough to see them, recognize them and do the next correct action,” explained ARM-S researcher Jean-Sebastian Valois.
“It does learn over time. That's machine learning. That's my field, to get robots to learn over time,” Bagnell said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Storm could drop 4-6 inches of snow on Pittsburgh area
- Project to End Human Trafficking volunteers help Uganda
- Grandview development plan inches ahead in Mt. Washington
- Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh doubles goal with $230M pledged in largest fundraiser
- Mt. Lebanon High School to sell its planetarium equipment
- Long-term solution for wastewater disposal eludes shale gas industry
- Newsmaker: John O’Brien
- Man arrested in massive Homestead fire
- UPMC to debut organ transplant surgery outside Pittsburgh
- Port Authority debuts new design for public transport signage
- Lure of tuition aid, gifts draw college students to ‘sugar daddy’ sites