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Fall 2023 GRASP on Robotics: Seth Hutchinson, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Model-Based Methods in Today’s Data-Driven Robotics Landscape”

November 17 at 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM

This is a hybrid event with in-person attendance in Wu and Chen and virtual attendance on Zoom.


Data-driven machine learning methods are making advances in many long-standing problems in robotics, including grasping, legged locomotion, perception, and more. There are, however, robotics applications for which data-driven methods are less effective, and sometime inappropriate. Data acquisition can be expensive, time consuming, or dangerous — to the surrounding workspace, humans in the workspace, or the robot itself. In such cases, generating data via simulation might seem a natural recourse, but simulation methods come with their own limitations, particularly when nondeterministic effects are significant, or when complex dynamics are at play, requiring heavy computation and exposing the so-called sim2real gap. Another alternative is to rely on a set of demonstrations, limiting the amount of required data by careful curation of the training examples; however, these methods fail when confronted with problems that were not represented in the training examples (so-called out-of-distribution problems), and this precludes the possibility of providing provable performance guarantees.

In this talk, I will describe recent work on robotics problems that do not readily admit data-driven solutions, including flapping flight by a bat-like robot, vision-based control of soft continuum robots, acrobatic maneuvering by quadruped robots, a cable-driven graffiti-painting robot, bipedal locomotion over granular media, and ensuring safe operation of mobile manipulators in HRI scenarios. I will describe some specific difficulties that confront data-driven methods for these problems, and describe how model-based approaches can provide workable solutions. Along the way, I will also discuss how judicious incorporation of data-driven machine learning tools can enhance performance of these methods.

Seth Hutchinson

Georgia Institute of Technology

Seth Hutchinson is the Executive Director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is also Professor and KUKA Chair for Robotics in the School of Interactive Computing. Hutchinson received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1988, and in 1990 joined the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where he was a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) until 2017, serving as Associate Department Head of ECE from 2001 to 2007. He is currently an Emeritus Professor of ECE at UIUC.

Hutchinson served as president of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) 2020-21. He has previously served as a member of the RAS Administrative Committee, as the Editor-in-Chief for the “IEEE Transactions on Robotics” and as the founding Editor-in-Chief of the RAS Conference Editorial Board.  He has served on the organizing committees for more than 100 conferences, has more than 300 publications on the topics of robotics and computer vision, and is coauthor of the books “Robot Modeling and Control,” published by Wiley, and “Principles of Robot Motion: Theory, Algorithms, and Implementations,” published by MIT Press. He is a Fellow of the IEEE.


November 17
10:30 AM - 11:45 AM
Event Category:


General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab
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Wu and Chen Auditorium (Room 101), Levine Hall
3330 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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