Autonomous Assembly In a Human World

11 Mar
Tuesday, 03/11/2014 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Ross Knepper
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Distributed Robotics Laboratory

Computer Science Building, Room 151

Faculty Host: Rod Grupen

Fifty years ago, robotic automation revolutionized manufacturing.  Modern factory robots, like their quinquagenarian counterparts, require humans to keep away during operation.  Safety excludes the benefits of live human-robot interaction during the assembly process.  Instead, interaction is restricted to tedious, inefficient, offline programming.  A new generation of safe robots promises to permit humans to work side-by-side with machines, yet the technology still falls far short of human capabilities for many tasks.  To increase productivity, we must reintroduce humans into assembly automation and allow them to work closely with robots as peers in order to leverage the best skills of both human and robot teammates.

In this talk, I present research in three technical themes necessary to endow robots with the capabilities to work as peers with humans.  The first theme is cooperative motion, including the ability to navigate and manipulate among people in crowded and cluttered environments.  The second theme is cooperative manipulation.  Broadly construed, this category includes the capabilities to interpret a part's or tool's function from form, reorient and attach parts together, and assemble complex objects.  Tasks may require these capabilities to be realized as an individual or collectively as a mixed human-robot team.  The third theme is cooperative communication.  To work with others, robots must be able to understand a concept of group activity and anticipate future actions.  Robots must address humans' needs and allow humans to address their needs.  I present the theory, algorithms, mechanisms, and instrumentation that will enable a collaborative human-robot assembly system.


Ross Knepper is a Research Scientist in the Distributed Robotics Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the theory, algorithms, and mechanisms of automated assembly.  Ross received his M.S and Ph.D. degrees in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 and 2011. Before his graduate education, Ross worked in industry at Compaq, where he designed high-performance algorithms for scalable multiprocessor systems; and also in commercialization at the National Robotics Engineering Center, where he adapted robotics technologies for customers in government and industry. Ross has served as a volunteer for Interpretation at Death Valley National Park, California.

A reception will precede this presentation at 3:40pm in the Computer Science Atrium.