Structured Robotics and Optimization


Robots aren't just mathematical objects with rigid body structures. Mathematical analysis and computational approximation is highly constraining and has resulted in a vexing divergence between theory and practice. I spent two years studying the geometry and control of robot movement with Stefan Schaal and Marc Toussaint at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the University of Stuttgart, and we've found that, when combined, optimization, control, and machine learning can often bridge the gap between theoretical and real-world robotics in surprising and exciting ways. I've started a company Lula Robotics with Jan Issac and Daniel Kappler from Max Planck to develop this technology. We aim to simplify robotics for practitioners by developing natural and accessible interfaces to these sophisticated systems. Contact me if you're interested in learning more.

Riemannian geometry, motion optimization, machine learning, control--these are all buzzwords of my research. I've been developing fast motion optimizers, such as CHOMP and RieMO, that leverage the geometry of differentiable maps as a fundamental building block. The following two videos demo some of this technology:

(See here for more videos.)

My background: I'm now the CEO of Lula Robotics, spinning off technology from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. Before that, I earned my PhD from Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute in 2009 studying imitation learning, structured prediction, and functional gradient techniques for learning and optimizationDrew Bagnell,  Martin Zinkevich, and I developed a methodology for training planners and control algorithms for robotics (Inverse Optimal Control (IOC)) using ideas from Maximum Margin Structured Classification (MMSC). Our framework is known as Maximum Margin Planning (MMP); we developed a family of online, batch, and functional subgradient methods (exponentiated boosting), collectively known as LEArning to seaRCH to learn efficiently within the framework. Applications include footstep predictiongrasp predictionheuristic learningoverhead navigationLADAR classification, and optical character recognitionSee the thesis research link to the left to learn more.

Before Germany, I was at TTI-C on the University of Chicago Campus building robots, Intel Labs in both Seattle and Pittsburgh studying trajectory optimization, and Google developing large scale learning systems to assess the quality of Ad Landing Pages.

Here's another video: