Viterbi receives robot to conduct further research

The Viterbi School of Engineering, a leading school in robotic research, received a Personal Robot 2 to further research and help create new ways in which robots can function in human society.

Mr. Roboto · The Personal Robot 2 can grasp objects using its hands, a helpful tool for functioning in human society. It will be used as a research tool for students and professors. - Brandon Hui | Daily Trojan

Willow Garage, a team of researchers that develops robotics hardware and software, gave the PR2 to USC and 11 other universities, including Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Tokyo and the University of California, Berkeley.

“By receiving the PR2 robot, it affirms that USC and Viterbi is one of the leading groups in robotics in the world,” said Gaurav Sukhatme, USC professor and director of research in the department of computer science.  “The robot gives us the ability to think of very new ideas and test them out in a state-of-the-art platform.  It is an excellent recognition.”

The lead figures involved in research with the PR2 robot at USC are Sukhatme, Stefan Schaal, a professor in the department of computer science, and Maja Matari, senior associate dean for research computer science.

“We are excited to be a part of the robotics development,” Schaal said.

According to Willow Garage, the PR2 combines mobility to navigate in human environments and dexterity to grasp and handle different objects and tools.

“We work on creating robots which will be part of a modern human society,” Schaal said.  “We decided to apply for the PR2 robot because we thought that it would be great to use the resources that it is able to provide.”

Sukhatme said each professor will utilize the robot differently. Sukhatme is leading the Robotic Embedded Systems Lab, Schaal is leading the Computational Learning and Motor Control Lab, and Matarić is leading the Interaction Lab.

“The three of us have separate research groups and our interests are slightly different, but related in certain areas,” Sukhatme said.  “Many different research projects will be conducted with this robot and tons of projects are being worked on all across the world.”

The Interaction Lab focuses on socially assistive human-robot interaction.  Matarić said her research is aimed at giving robots the ability to help people, especially those with special needs.

Students said they are also looking forward to the new discoveries that the robot will provide.

“The fact that USC received the robot just proves how it is a leading institution and strong in robotics,” said Anna Lee, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering. “As a student in Viterbi, I hope to be involved with and see the development and growth in robotics.”