PR2 at GWU

PR2When The George Washington University began the push to transform its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences into a leading institution two years ago, it ranked the emerging field of robotics as a key technology investment. The university recruited Evan Drumwright last Spring to help build a robotics program for the engineering school.

Drumwright comes to GWU from USC, where he focused his research on humanoid robots. At the time of his hiring, Drumwright had plans in place to build a mobile manipulator robot. These plans included purchasing an anthropomorphic arm, usable base, an array of sensors, and a host of other discrete parts. Drumwright was in the processing of acquiring all of the hardware he needed and finalizing plans to spend the next year or so building his own robot when he heard about the PR2 from Willow Garage. A few weeks ago, Drumwright took delivery of his PR2 and is needless to say excited about having a ready-made platform for R&D.

According to Drumwright, "I wasn't looking forward to spending upwards of one year simply building a robot so that we could commence our research. There was no guarantee that all of the components would work together as planned. Instead, we now have a state-of-the-art PR2, that's already assembled and tested. To say that we accelerated our research is an understatement; we had the PR2 out of crate and functional within 30 minutes."

Drumwright calls the PR2 "the most advanced mobile manipulator in the world" and sees it as putting GWU in a position to conduct unique research. "There is a large amount of code already available for the PR2," says Drumwright, "and a considerable community of PR2 users online. These advantages allow my student researchers to get robot code up and working in a short period of time."

We'll reach out to Drumwright again in a few months, after he's had a chance to really get his research on the PR2 underway. Some of the research areas Drumwright is exploring include robot manipulation of soft-body objects, bi-manual manipulation, and the interplay of robots within the human environment. In addition, Drumwright is looking forward to the possibilities for collaborating with DC-based researchers outside of GWU.



Looking forward to hearing more of what he has to say and where his research is taking him.
There seems to be a lot going on in the world of robots that many people are not aware of.