Advancing robot autonomy in unpredictable environments

a model city with small robot cars
Yiannis Kantaros studies teams of autonomous robots working collaboratively in the Washington University Miniature City. (Photo: Yiannis Kantaros)

Yiannis Kantaros, an assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has won a five-year $591,457 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation to address limitations to robot autonomy. Kantaros aims to advance robot intelligence and enable teams of robots to interact collaboratively with their perceived environment to overcome unanticipated obstacles and events. CAREER awards support junior faculty who model the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellence in education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. One-third of current McKelvey Engineering faculty have received the award.

“Unlike humans, robots lack the ability to interact intelligently with their surroundings to overcome these issues,” Kantaros said. “My research will address this challenge by enabling teams of robots to interact with their environment and overcome challenges by intelligently reconfiguring it, for example, by pushing obstacles out of the way or using objects to bridge gaps.”

By marrying artificial perception with decision-making capabilities, Kantaros will equip robots to not only perceive their surroundings but also to take a more active approach and modify surroundings to achieve their goals. A central component of his project is developing perception-based planning capabilities for robot teams operating in unknown and unstructured environments.

Read more on the McKelvey Engineering website.

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