PR2 Beta Sites: Spotlight on MIT


Mobile Manipulation in Human-Centered Environments

MIT's primary goal is to develop some of the fundamental technologies that will enable robots to inhabit complex, dynamic human environments for long periods of time.

Imagine the PR2 living in the Stata Center at MIT.  This is a 720,000 sq ft building full of curving corridors, dead ends, glass walls, cluttered labs and almost a thousand people.  Suppose the PR2's task is to find and deliver equipment from one lab to another, and to be able to do this over months and years.  What does it take to achieve this?

Navigation: The robot needs to build and maintain enormously complex maps that it can use to find its way through a very complex and dynamic environment -- the furniture moves, the interior walls are re-arranged, new passages are made and others blocked.  The robot needs to know where to find particular things and people, even though their locations change with time.

Perception: The robot must be able to recognize an enormous variety of objects: computers, keyboards, desks, staplers, wrenches, glasses, plants, left-over chinese food containers...and other robots.

Manipulation: The robot needs to be able to grasp and manipulate arbitrary objects that will often be in cluttered environments -- in a cupboard, in a drawer, or on a cluttered table.  The robot will need to move items out of the way to see its target object.  Objects will have to be slid, tilted and up-ended as well as stacked and put away.

Communication: The robot needs to communicate with people in human language to find out what needs doing.  People will need to tell the robot where to find people and things.

Planning: The robot needs to plan how to achieve the goals it has been given using its capabilities of navigation, perception and manipulation.  Which route should it take to the motion-capture room?  Which object should be moved first to find the multimeter in the cabinet?

The MIT team is working on pushing the state-of-the art in all of these areas and hopes to have the PR2 navigating and manipulating in the Stata Center in the near future.

Team photoThe Team:

The MIT team is based in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the largest interdisciplinary research lab at MIT.  The team has members from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.


Below is a video of MIT's team presenting their proposal to the rest of the PR2 Beta Program participants. You can download the slides as PDF.