I imagine a future where robots are so integrated in the fabric of human life that they become as common as smart phones are today. The field of robotics has the potential to greatly improve the quality of our lives at work, at home and at play.

There are significant gaps between where robots are today and the promise of pervasive integration of robots in everyday life. Some of the gaps concern the creation of robots —how do we design and fabricate new robots quickly and efficiently? Other gaps concern the computation and capabilities of robots to reason, change and adapt for increasingly more complex tasks in increasingly complex environments. Other gaps pertain to interactions between robots and between robots and people. Meeting these challenges will bring robots closer to the vision of pervasive robotics: The connected world of many people and many robots performing many different tasks.

The focus of my research is to develop the science of networked/distributed/collaborative robotics, by asking: how can many machines collaborate to achieve a common goal? Distributed networked robot systems consist of multiple robots that are connected by communication. In these systems the robots interact locally with the environment. The objective is for the system as a whole to have guaranteed global behavior. Distributed robotics is an important area of robotics as it addresses how collections of robots can collaborate to achieve a larger task than each individual robot is capable of doing.  My research addresses the development of algorithms and systems that (1) enable collaboration; (2) couple tightly communication, control, and perception; (3) are scalable and generally independent on the number of agents in the system; (4) have provable guarantees. An important theme in this work is self-organization: the study of computational processes that interact with each other and with the physical world and change to achieve system reconfiguration in response to the task requirements and the environment. Another important theme is creating increasingly more capable and autonomous robot systems that adapt to increasingly more complex environments and operate in response to increasingly higher-level instructions from the humans.

How many robots are in the image below?


*Image by Nicholas StHelier