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CS Colloquium: Tom Erez (UW)
Start Date: 3/19/2013Start Time: 3:30 PM
End Date: 3/19/2013End Time: 4:30 PM
Event Description:
"Model-Based Optimization for Intelligent Robot Control"
Tom Erez
University of Washington

Tuesday, March 19
3:30-4:30 PM

ABSTRACT: Science-fiction robots can perform any task humans do and more. In reality, however, today's articulated robots are disappointingly limited in their motor skills. Current planning and control algorithms cannot provide the robot with the capacity for intelligent motor behavior - instead, control engineers must manually specify the motions of every task. This approach results in jerky motions (popularly stereotyped as "moving like a robot") that cannot cope with unexpected changes.

I study control methods that automate the job of the controls engineer. I give the robot only a cost function that encodes the task in high-level terms: move forward, remain upright, bring an object, etc. The robot uses a model of itself and its surroundings to optimize its behavior, finding a solution that minimizes the future cost. This optimization-based approach can be applied to different problems, and in every case the robot alone decides how to solve the task. Re-optimizing in real time allows the robot to deal with unexpected deviations from the plan, generating robust and creative behavior that adapts to modeling errors and dynamic environments.

In this talk, I will present the theoretic and algorithmic aspects needed to control articulated robots using model-based optimization. I will discuss how machine learning can be used to create better controllers and my work on trajectory optimization. Finally, I will describe my vision for the future of model-based optimization in robotics and control. A preview of some of the work discussed in this talk can be seen here: [a lower-quality version is also available on YouTube:] />
BIO: Tom Erez is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of Washington. He currently leads the controls group in the the UW team for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, building a system for autonomous control of a humanoid robot in a disaster response scenario. His research is concerned with intelligent motor control of robotic and bio-mechanical systems; in particular, he is interested in the interface between machine learning and control theory. His past publications include work on gait optimization, physics simulation, planning under uncertainty, modeling hand-eye coordination, minimax control, and real-time optimization for control. He was awarded the Sackler Scholarship for his research on bio-mechanical models, and his work has been funded by NSF, DARPA, and Willow Garage. Tom received his PhD in Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis, and his BSc in Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also spent three years as a researcher at the University of Amsterdam and the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Turin, Italy, where he studied the application of Statistical Physics models to domains of natural and social sciences.

Hosted by Dirk Grunwald
Location Information:
Main Campus - Engineering Classroom Wing  (View Map)
1111 Engineering DR
Boulder, CO
Room: 1B40
Contact Information:
Name: Bor-yuh Evan Chang
Phone: 303-492-7514
Photo of Tom Erez
Attachments For This Event:
    > Tom Erez Colloquium flyer
This event is open to
  • Everyone
  • Of note:
    Free and open to all.
    Light refreshments will be served.

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