My research addresses practices in advanced factory automation, enabling autonomous robots to function safely and dependably alongside humans in environments structured for people. Doing so will open up many products still assembled by hand today to automation opportunities. Leveraging insights from psychology, sociology, and linguistics, robots will interact with factory workers through natural language and gesture, so that they can be programmed without special training and can operate as peers with human workers. Robots must be aware of their environment and responsive to changes within it. In multiple robot deployments, a distributed planning and control approach is vital to enable scalability and provable correctness. I use IKEA furniture to demonstrate techniques in planning, control, perception and human interaction for automated assembly.
Ross A. Knepper is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Distributed Robotics Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is teaching a team of KUKA youBots to assemble Ikea furniture. He has created motion planners that drive Mars rovers, unmanned military vehicles, and a personal home-assistant robot called HERB. His Ph.D. thesis, completed at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, explores the efficiency of exploration in motion planning and delves into the geometry and topology of path alternatives. Before pursuing a graduate education, Ross spent four years as a systems software engineer at Compaq (now part of Hewlett-Packard) designing high-performance algorithms for virtual memory management in the Tru64 Unix operating system kernel, running on the Alpha processor. He has also served as a volunteer for Interpretation in Death Valley National Park, California.
IEEE Spectrum Magazine visited ICRA 2013 in Karlsruhe, Germany this week, and they stopped by to interview us at the IkeaBot booth.
Our IkeaBot work was recently profiled in the New Scientist online.
Our paper "IkeaBot: An Autonomous Multi-Robot Coordinated Furniture Assembly System" has been nominated for Best Automation Paper at ICRA 2013. The paper describes a multi-robot IKEA furniture assembly system.