Degrees of Freedom, The More The Merrier

Howie Choset, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Robots are great. Making them work is hard. It also makes them great inspiration for research and education. My research group is particularly interested in robots with many degrees of freedom, in particular snake robots and multi-agent systems. We have built a variety of snake robots and applied them to search and rescue, minimally invasive surgery, and aerospace manufacturing. To make these robots work, we need to develop controllers to describe how the robots move, planners to determine where the robots should go, and estimators to close the loop. A common theme to these three research foci is devising ways by which we can simplify a multi-dimensional problem to a lower dimensional one. In terms of control and motion planning, we take recourse to and build upon fundamentals in geometric mechanics to prescribe gaits, which are cyclic controllers for undulatory systems operating on land and in fluids. In this work, we derived an optimal coordinate frame for articulated robots which allows a highly articulated robot to enjoy the computational simplicity of existing motion models for wheeled vehicles. Finally, to close the loop, we have developed novel constrained Kalman filtering approaches, which we have applied to surgical robotics, to perform SLAM in the body, which we call BodySLAM. If time permits, I will also discuss my educational activities, especially at the undergraduate level, with a course using LEGO robots and the role of entrepreneurism in University education.

Howie Choset was born and raised in New York about 20 minutes from Scott Kelly. Today, he is a Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University where he conducts research in path planning, motion planning, estimation, mechanism design, and hybrid controls. Much of this work has three foci: snake robots for search and rescue, manufacturing and medical robotics, multi-robot path planning for manufacturing and exploration, and coverage for de-mining and autobody painting. Choset directs the Undergraduate Robotics Minor at Carnegie Mellon and teaches an overview course on Robotics which uses series of custom developed Lego Labs to complement the course work. Professor Choset's students have won best paper awards at the RIA in 1999 and ICRA in 2003, he has been nominated for best papers at ICRA in 1997 and IROS in 2003, 2007, and 2011, best video at ICRA 2010, and won best paper at IEEE Bio Rob in 2006. In 2002, the MIT Technology Review elected Choset as one of its top 100 innovators in the world under 35. In 2005, MIT Press published a textbook, lead authored by Choset, entitled "Principles of Robot Motion." In 2006, Choset co-founded a medical device company called Medrobotics, Corp.

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