UT Arlington computer scientist's research would make robots more observant

September 10, 2015

The use of household robots for healthcare or service needs could help thousands of people, but most of those people do not have the skills to program those robots.

A University of Texas at Arlington engineer is seeking ways to program robots by having them observe a human performing a particular task, then imitate it to complete the same objective. Manfred Huber, an associate professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, was awarded a highly competitive $139,968 Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research, or EAGER, award from the National Science Foundation to advance his work.

The truth, Huber said, is that a robot cannot imitate exactly the task that has been demonstrated due to physical limitations and a lack of understanding of nuance.

For example, if the task is to pick up socks from a bedroom floor, a person might walk to a sock, pick it up, walk to a clothes hamper and deposit the sock. A robot would try to imitate the actions exactly, placing its feet in the exact same spots, trying to pick up the exact same sock and so on. However, the robot might have wheels instead of feet and the sock that was picked up in the demonstration would no longer be there so the robot's way of picking up the sock would likely differ from a human.

"We want a robot to learn the function - to figure out the essence of what you're doing and figure out how to achieve the same outcome. The robot should observe what effect you have on the environment and interpret what you do, and which tasks are relevant to completion of the objective and which ones aren't," Huber said. "Since these robots aren't humanoid, they move differently and must learn to decipher what the desired outcome is and how to achieve that outcome."

To ensure that the robots learn, humans must give qualitative feedback on whether the outcome was good or bad without specifically stating what was good or bad. This allows the robot to learn what is important about a task to achieve the objective, not just replicate motions.

Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the College of Engineering, emphasized the importance of Huber's work, as well as the prestige of the NSF award.

"The NSF's EAGER grants are awarded to researchers with potentially groundbreaking ideas," Behbehani said. "Dr. Huber's work with robots, and health and the human condition may be laying the groundwork for assistive technologies that will allow those with disabilities or debilitating conditions to be self-sufficient."
About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a "Best for Vets" college by Military Times magazine. Visit http://www.uta.eduto learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at http://www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

University of Texas at Arlington

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.