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WPI's Sonia Chernova wins NSF CAREER award for work aimed at creating 'everyday' robots
Date:3/7/2012

nts, such as homes. To enable robots to adapt to new and changing environments, we need a way to customize a robot's behavior on the fly, without the need for skilled programmers."

With her CAREER Award, Chernova will attempt to determine what robots need to know to perform various tasks and how everyday people, with no understanding of programming or even how robots work, can help them gain that knowledge. To accelerate this research, she'll draw on the power of crowd-sourcingcreating a web-based testing environment that will enable her to gather data from thousands of Internet users. Designed as a game in which players advance through progressively more difficult tasksfirst with a simulated robot and later, after they've achieved sufficient proficiency, with a physical robotthe system will ask users to show a robot how to perform tasks in a home (tidying up a room, for example) and in a small-scale manufacturing plant.

Unlike typical robots, the machines used in Chernova's research will be capable of active learning, which means that they will be able to ask questions. Since her aim is to develop robots that operate in proximity with people, it makes sense, she says, for the robots to ask people for help. In particular, the robots will be able to ask which features of objects or of the environment are relevant to a particular taskfor example, whether color is important in determining whether an object on a table is a book or a magazine.

"People are excellent at ruling out irrelevant features and knowing what is important and what isn't," Chernova says. "Developing similar capabilities for robots is critical to enable them to operate effectively in our complex world."


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Contact: Michael Dorsey
mwdorsey@wpi.edu
508-831-5609
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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