Feng Guo, PhD student with Yan Bin Jia's Robotics Laboratory, has recently been awarded the 2013 Tom Miller Fellowship for his research work in robotics. He will present his latest results at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Animation (ICRA), to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany in May. Guo and Dr. Jia are also working on a journal paper to be submitted to the International Journal of Robotics Research.
Dr. Jia and his Robotics Laboratory group are working on finding methods for a robot hand to successfully grasp deformable objects. "It is a challenging field to work in," says Guo. "Much work has been done in robotics on grasping rigid objects, but very little on deformable objects." A deformable object is an elastic object that can be described by elasticity theories. When applying traditional methods to deformable objects, the grasp wrench space (the space that is enclosed by the "fingers" on the robot) changes as the object deforms, which makes it impossible to conduct any conventional force closure analysis. In short, with deformable objects, applying force does not work. Guo's work shows how specifying displacement rather than force on a deformable object gave stable results during simulation with a robot hand grasping a 2-D object. He intends to continue working on this idea for future results, expanding his ideas to 3-D objects.
Dr. Jia gives Guo the credit for this work. "While the overall research framework is mine, Feng came up with the idea of specifying displacement rather than force to grasp deformable objects. He did all of the setup, the experimentation, and measurements on this work. He has proven himself to be a creative, independent researcher that works very hard." Guo and Jia are now working to extend this line of work with new results.
Guo developed his interest in robotics during his 2nd year of his undergraduate studies. "It was a gradual thing. Through physics, I became interested in modeling how the world works. With robotics, it is applying knowledge to a device to make it behave like it is alive. Sometimes it seems a little like magic!"
Publication with the ICRA conference is not given to magicians, however. Guo's work is solidly based in theory and practice that combines several disciplines. He is enthusiastic about the potential growth of research opportunities in his area. "Robotics is such an interdisciplinary field that it can require diverse knowledge. We need researchers with backgrounds in AI, algorithms, electrical and mechanical engineering, human-robot interaction, and ethical theories," he says. He looks forward to meeting researchers from across the globe with similar interests at the ICRA robotics conference in May. His trip is supported by his Tom Miller Graduate Fellowship. "This opportunity, which I am able to take advantage of because of this fellowship support, will significantly improve my ability for scholarship and broaden my knowledge base in my research area. I will be able to meet other researchers and learn what they are working on. I look forward to bringing that new knowledge back to my lab," he says.
The Tom Miller Fellowship was established in 2012 by alumni and External Advisory Board member Tom Miller, to support and encourage CS graduate students to demonstrate excellence in research by pursuing opportunities to present their work at top tier international conferences and to publish in top research journals.