Our research in Human Interactive Robotics focuses on allowing robots to perform human tasks in the real world and allowing humans to perform tasks in a virtual world.
A large area of research is how to build hardware that allows robots to move and manipulate tools and objects in a human environment to perform challenging human tasks. For example, perhaps we want a robot to tighten a few loose screws and bolts around the house. Rather than designing a glorified power screw-driver that does only that task, we want to design a robot that can drive into the garage, open the tool chest, select and pick-up an appropriate screw-driver, drive up the stairs, and tighten the sink faucet. Towards this end, we designed mobile robots, like PR1 and PR2 as well as better arms and hands for manipulating common objects and tools that humans use with ease.
The required intelligence for a robot to perform complex human tasks autonomously is another research interest. Along these lines, we developed an integrated system for the PR2 robot to autonomously purchase coffee from a coffee shop near our lab and return with it. This required successful navigation of the doors and the elevators in our building as well as the development of a process for passing objects to and from untrained humans.