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This Robot Lab Has No Idea What Its Robots Are Doing


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Magnus Egerstedt, executive director for the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the new Robotarium.

In the Robotarium, a 10-square-foot table inside the Atlanta laboratory of Magnus Egerstedt, executive director of the Georgia Institute of Technologys Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, up to 50 ground bots and 20 aerial copters can be remotely controlled by researchers often from other schools, or even foreign countries.

Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology's (Georgia Tech) Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines supports the Robotarium, an arena where scientists can run experiments on remote-controlled machines.

Georgia Tech's Magnus Egerstedt says unpredictability is a regular feature of the Robotarium, where swarms of ground and airborne robots are put through their paces. Researchers use these swarms to test search-and-rescue scenarios, model flight formations for the U.S. Department of Defense, and predict the interactions of fleets of autonomous cars. Cameras located throughout the arena record the trials so the researchers conducting them can see the results of their experiments.

The Robotarium is scheduled to relocate to a much larger space, which will host experiments with 120 ground bots and eventually 60 aerial bots.

Stanford University professor Mac Schwager notes robot malfunctions are not the machines' fault.

"It's not as if they're trying to break free or they've developed a will of their own," Schwager says.

From The Wall Street Journal
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