December 12, 2017
SEC Faculty Travel Visit Focuses on Improving Robotic Software
By: Bryant Welbourne
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)
Recent technological advances have made it possible for humans to place numerous tasks in the artificial hands of robotic entities. Whether it’s assembling cars or cleaning your house, artificial intelligence has lightened the work load of ordinary and complex duties we face every day.
“We have this dream that robots will eventually be able to do a lot of jobs that are dangerous, repetitive or inaccessible to people,” said Dr. Jason O’Kane, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Computational Robotics at the University of South Carolina. “And while we’ve made progress in making robotic hardware, we’ve lagged in producing the software, or the smarts, behind the robot.”
Dr. O’Kane and Dr. Dylan Shell, Associate Professor at Texas A&M University, recently took part in an SEC Faculty Travel Program visit to examine ways to improve robotic software.
“We have to look at the bare minimum of what a robot can do for us to understand its full functionality,” said Dr. Shell. “Our research focuses on the boundaries of what a simple robot can and can’t do and how that changes as we modify the robot.”
Dr. O’Kane and Dr. Shell have known each other for several years and their meeting in College Station provided an opportunity for the two to discuss old and new project ideas.
“One project is to create software tools to help robot designers,” said Dr. O’Kane. “There are many decisions that have to be made about a robot’s physical design, software and the interaction of its parts. Humans are currently making these decisions but our goal is to one day produce software that can account for those numerous factors to assist designers with developing robots.”
A different project led to a presentation at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Vancouver.
“We produced a paper on improper filter reduction, where we allow a robot to make some mistakes so we can see how it will respond,” said Dr. Shell. “The timing of the SEC visit made it possible for us to write the paper and present it at the IEEE International Conference.”
Dr. O’Kane’s and Dr. Shell’s visit was supported by the SEC Faculty Travel Program, which is administered by SECU, the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference. The SEC supports and promotes the academic endeavors of the students and faculty at its 14 member institutions.