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Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments: Hosting R5 at MIT

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments: Hosting R5 at MIT
In June 2012, MIT decided to form a team to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) despite having never worked on humanoid robots before. Thanks to a principled optimization-based approach to perception, planning, and control that emphasized task-level autonomy, a management strategy that emphasized rapid prototyping of research algorithms combined with rigorous software engineering practices, and an incredibly strong team, we were able to rapidly develop from scratch all of the infrastructure and algorithms required to compete with the top humanoid robotics labs in the world. This team is just getting started. Hosting R5 at MIT would provide the opportunity to transition our momentum onto an incredible new hardware platform, and towards a series of NASA-relevant challenges which match our core strengths in autonomy. Our DRC codebase is already being used on R5 by the team in Edinburgh, co-led by former Team MIT lead Maurice Fallon; this tight existing integration with the Edinburgh team is a major opportunity that would benefit both MIT and Edinburgh's efforts. The expected tasks for validation outlined in the solitication are well-aligned with our core capabilities in perception, planning, and control — but also add exciting new demands such as being able to perform robust locomotion in confined spaces and more dexterous manipulation, even with non-rigid structures. The DRC tasks had very little uncertainty, and therefore required very little in the way of high-level (or mission-level) autonomy. In order to evaluate how the state-of-the-art in mission-level autonomy can address the expected tasks for the Space Robotics Challenge (SRC), this proposal pairs the MIT DRC team with co-PIs Leslie Kaelbling and Tomas Lozano-Perez to integrate their state-of-the-art mission-level autonomy capabilities with our DRC perception, planning, and control algorithms. Hosting R5 is a fantastic opportunity for MIT — we aim to provide our students with access to the most advanced hardware in the world and to focus their basic research towards important problems of national need. Hosting R5 at MIT can also help the SRC, providing an exciting, world-class venue for the competing teams to come and do their research. More »

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