Creating the Next in Robotics
By Jason Maderer April 10, 2017
In his lab, Magnus Egerstedt oversees swarms of robots, developing algorithms that allow them to work together. He does nearly the same thing outside his lab.
As director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (IRIM), Egerstedt oversees swarms of researchers. More than 75 from five Georgia Tech colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute collaborate on projects that have attracted approximately $32 million in sponsored research. Together, they partner with industry and government to pursue transformative robotics research.
From autonomy, to human augmentation, to collaborative robotics, Egerstedt and his interdisciplinary peers also educate the next generation of experts. There are more than 200 students in IRIM.
Below are three examples of how IRIM is creating the next in robotics.
Jonathan Rogers is building machines that will change the monotony of agriculture. Jaydev Desai is creating medical robotic devices to aid in surgery and breast cancer diagnoses.
And then there’s the leader, who doubles these days as an interior designer. Egerstedt, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is managing a National Science Foundation-funded project that will allow roboticists around the world to run experiments at Georgia Tech — without ever stepping foot on campus.
It’s called the Robotarium.
There is a four-acre soybean test field outside Athens, Georgia, where University of Georgia plant genetics researchers roam back and forth every summer. They scribble detailed notes and make daily observations as different breeds of soybeans grow in the July sun. As they plod up and down the rows, they measure crop growth and gauge leaf wilting, among other things, trying to correlate phenotypes with desirable drought tolerance properties to help ensure the future of farming. It’s repetitive, monotonous, and very hot.
This summer, Georgia Tech researchers will join them to bring the future a little closer. George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering's Jonathan Rogers and GTRI Senior Research Engineer Ai-Ping Hu will use the field of robotics to create a field of robots. Their team is building machines that will hang over the crops, suspended by parallel guy-wires. The robots, fitted with cameras, will swing like gibbons along the cables, taking picture after picture of each plant. Down each row, then side to side, and back again, from one wire to another.
With Georgia Tech robots dangling over the field, UGA researchers will be able to get more frequent measurements and to avoid some laborious field work. Someday, they may be able to stay at their laptops miles away, in the air conditioning, scanning a steady stream of images and data sent back from the robots.
This is Tarzan.