Three things that we take for granted when collaborating with other humans, perceiving, acting, and communicating, are some of the areas that are most difficult for today's robots. Assistant Professor Stefanie Tellex of Brown University's Department of Computer Science (Brown CS) has decided to tackle them all at once, and she's just won a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to support her research.
CAREER Awards are given in support of outstanding junior faculty teacher-scholars who excel at research, education, and integration of the two within the context of an organizational mission, and Stefanie joins multiple previous Brown CS winners of the award, including (most recently) Jeff Huang, Rodrigo Fonseca, and Tim Kraska.
"We're unifying perception, action, and communication," Stefanie says, "by using object-oriented multimodal decision-theoretic models, and the goal is to create robots that collaborate with us to meet our needs. This project enables a robot to acquire models for detecting, localizing, and manipulating physical objects, plan in very large spaces to find appropriate actions involving those objects, and communicate with people to learn how to use objects to meet their needs. We have to have this integrated model for a collaborative robot assistant because it needs to be able to robustly interpret natural language instructions, actively collect new information to complete its tasks, and ask for help when things go wrong."
Stefanie's research will take place in two settings: assisting the disabled and elderly through object delivery in the home, and collaborative assembly in a factory. Along the way, the project aims to set a record by creating the largest-ever dataset of object instances by distributing data collection across everyone with a Baxter robot. Data collection will be carried out by high school students in an internship program that's been made possible in part by the Northeast Robotics Colloquium (NERC), which Stefanie co-founded, introducing hundreds of students from diverse backgrounds to the larger academic and industrial robotics community in the northeast.
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.