Collaborating Authors

Robot Planning & Action

5 Top Trends in AI Robotics in 2022


In the coming years, broad exploration will occur in the field of hybrid neurosymbolic approaches towards applications that are beyond the capabilities of any one approach on its own,

In Japan, a lab is quietly building friendly versions of Dr. Octopus' robot arms


Over the last five years, researchers at the Information Somatics Lab in Tokyo have made significant process testing and developing Dr. Octopus-like robot arms. The goal is to find effective ways to redesign the human body, focusing specifically on augmenting and multiplying our upper limb capabilities. Their work has come a long way over the years, from feet-controlled robot arms to appendages controlled movements in the shoulders.

Electrostatic brakes make bendy robot arms a lot more efficient

New Scientist

Robotic limbs that are controlled by electrostatic brakes rather than many motors could lead to a new generation of lightweight robots that use around 90 per cent less power than existing designs. Robots usually have one or more motors for every joint to control its movement, but Patrick Lancaster at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues have created simple brakes that enable joints to be frozen or released in precise combinations so that a single motor can power a limb with as many as 10 joints.

SafePicking: Learning Safe Object Extraction via Object-Level Mapping Artificial Intelligence

Robots need object-level scene understanding to manipulate objects while reasoning about contact, support, and occlusion among objects. Given a pile of objects, object recognition and reconstruction can identify the boundary of object instances, giving important cues as to how the objects form and support the pile. In this work, we present a system, SafePicking, that integrates object-level mapping and learning-based motion planning to generate a motion that safely extracts occluded target objects from a pile. Planning is done by learning a deep Q-network that receives observations of predicted poses and a depth-based heightmap to output a motion trajectory, trained to maximize a safety metric reward. Our results show that the observation fusion of poses and depth-sensing gives both better performance and robustness to the model. We evaluate our methods using the YCB objects in both simulation and the real world, achieving safe object extraction from piles.

SpaceX successfully assembles a full 400ft Starship rocket using a trio of giant robot arms

Daily Mail - Science & tech

The massive 400ft Starship rocket has been assembled on a launch platform by SpaceX, ahead of an announcement on the future of the heavy lift launcher tonight. Founder Elon Musk announced his plan to reveal details about the future of the massive, and fully re-usable spacecraft, starting at 21:00 ET, from Boca Chica, the home of the SpaceX Starship test facility in Texas. It will be the first update on the vehicle in almost three years, and while details haven't been revealed over what Musk will say, it will likely include details of the first orbital test launch for the next generation rocket. Starship, which will return humans to the lunar surface and could one day ferry more than 100 people a time to Mars, is set to make its first orbital flight in March. The latest development in Boca Chica saw the firm stack a two-stage Starship rocket - with the upper stage being lifted on to the Super Heavy booster using a trio of robotic arms attached to the 480ft launch tower.


AAAI Conferences

Path planning in the presence of dynamic obstacles is a challenging problem due to the added time dimension in search space. In approaches that ignore the time dimension and treat dynamic obstacles as static, frequent re-planning is unavoidable as the obstacles move, and their solutions are generally sub-optimal and can be incomplete. To achieve both optimality and completeness, it is necessary to consider the time dimension during planning. The notion of adaptive dimensionality has been successfully used in high-dimensional motion planning such as manipulation of robot arms, but has not been used in the context of path planning in dynamic environments. In this paper, we apply the idea of adaptive dimensionality to speed up path planning in dynamic environments for a robot with no assumptions on its dynamic model. Specifically, our approach considers the time dimension only in those regions of the environment where a potential collision may occur, and plans in a low-dimensional state-space elsewhere. We show that our approach is complete and is guaranteed to find a solution, if one exists, within a cost sub-optimality bound.


AAAI Conferences

Current motion planners, such as the ones available in ROS MoveIt, can solve difficult motion planning problems. However, these planners are not practical in unstructured, rapidly-changing environments. First, they assume that the environment is well-known, and static during planning and execution. Second, they do not support temporal constraints, which are often important for synchronization between a robot and other actors. Third, because many popular planners generate completely new trajectories for each planning problem, they do not allow for representing persistent control policy information associated with a trajectory across planning problems.


AAAI Conferences

In many robot motion planning problems such as manipulation planning for a personal robot in a kitchen or an industrial manipulator in a warehouse, all motion planning queries are in an environment that is largely static. Consequently, one should be able to improve the performance of a planning algorithm by training on this static environment ahead of operation time. In this work, we propose a method to improve the performance of heuristic search-based motion planners in such environments. The first, learning, phase of our proposed method analyzes search performance on multiple planning episodes to infer local minima zones, that is, regions where the existing heuristic(s) are weakly correlated with the true cost-to-go. Then, in the planning phase of the method, the learnt local minima are used to modify the original search graph in a way that improves search performance. We prove that our method preserves guarantees on completeness and bounded suboptimality with respect to the original search graph. Experimentally, we observe significant improvements in success rate and planning time for challenging 11 degree-of-freedom mobile manipulation problems.


AAAI Conferences

We consider the motion-planning problem of planning a collision-free path of a robot in the presence of risk zones. The robot is allowed to travel in these zones but is penalized in a super-linear fashion for consecutive accumulative time spent there. We suggest a natural cost function that balances path length and risk-exposure time. Specifically, we consider the discrete setting where we are given a graph, or a roadmap, and we wish to compute the minimal-cost path under this cost function. Interestingly, paths defined using our cost function do not have an optimal substructure.


AAAI Conferences

Deploying fleets of autonomous robots in real-world applications requires addressing three problems: motion planning, coordination, and control. Application-specific features of the environment and robots often narrow down the possible motion planning and control methods that can be used. This paper proposes a lightweight coordination method that implements a high-level controller for a fleet of potentially heterogeneous robots. Very few assumptions are made on robot controllers, which are required only to be able to accept set point updates and to report their current state. The approach can be used with any motion planning method for computing kinematically-feasible paths. Coordination uses heuristics to update priorities while robots are in motion, and a simple model of robot dynamics to guarantee dynamic feasibility. The approach avoids a priori discretization of the environment or of robot paths, allowing robots to "follow each other" through critical sections.