Manipulation of a wire by the Baxter robot.

Manipulation of a wire by the Baxter robot.

Mechanics and Manipulation of Elastic Objects

Our goal is to derive algorithms for robotic manipulation and perception of elastic objects that work well and that are easy to implement. The approach taken is control-theoretic and is based on the idea that the shape of an elastic object can be described as the solution to a geometric optimal control problem. This idea leads to representations of object shape that significantly reduce the complexity of algorithms. The project is motivated by the need of small businesses to automate handling and assembly of compliant parts. As a case study, it focuses on robotic installation of a wire harness (a bundle of wires that terminate in electrical connectors). This manufacturing task is hard to automate because it requires reasoning about deformation of the wire harness. [Funded by NSF IIS-1320519]

Monitoring a construction site with a quadcopter.

Monitoring a construction site with a quadcopter.

Aerial Robots for Inspection and Monitoring

Our goal is to automate the process of building and infrastructure construction monitoring. The purpose of construction monitoring is to provide construction practitioners—owners, contractors, subcontractors, and tradesmen—with the information they need to easily and quickly make project control decisions. These decisions have a direct impact on the overall efficiency and safety of a construction project. Our work in particular is driven by the hypothesis that construction cost, delivery time, and environmental impact can be significantly reduced—and safety and productivity can be maximized—with tools that better characterize the extent to which construction plans are being followed (progress monitoring and quality control), and understanding the reasons for performance inefficiencies (activity analysis). Our approach is to derive this information by analysis of images and video streams that are provided by aerial robots with onboard cameras. [Funded by NSF CMMI-1544999] • [Funded by NSF CMMI-1446765] • [Funded by NSF CMMI-1427111]

A low-cost prosthetic hand.

A low-cost prosthetic hand.

design, analysis, and Control of Prosthetic Hands

Our goal is to improve the functional performance of upper-limb prostheses (e.g., prosthetic hands or arms). We use surface electromyography (EMG) with pattern recognition to enable control. We use vibrotactile, electrotactile, and skin stretch feedback to restore a sense of proprioception and touch. All of this work is done in collaboration with three partners. With Levi Hargrove at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, we study the use of prosthetic hands by people with upper-limb amputations who have received targeted reinnervation. With John Rogers and his research group, we develop flexible, stretchable epidermal electronic sensors that replace standard EMG electrodes. With the Range of Motion Project, we apply our technology to meet the needs of people with upper-limb amputations in Ecuador. [Funded by NSF CAREER-0955088] • [Funded by NIH NRSA-1F30HD084201] • [learn more]

EEG-based brain-computer interface

EEG-based brain-computer interface

Non-invasive brain-computer interfacing

Real-time analysis of non-invasive neural imaging tools, such as electroencephalography (EEG), enables the creation of a direct link between a computer system and a human user.  This direct link, known as a brain-computer interface (BCI), provides users with a channel to communicate their intentions that can be independent of the motor system. Currently, our research is focused on the development of BCI systems that rely on steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs), a neural response to flickering lights.  To improve the performance of SSVEP-based BCIs, we take a cross-disciplinary approach drawing from signal processing, information theory, material science, and cognitive neuroscience.   Over the past 10 years, our projects have doubled the performance of SSVEP-based BCIs, demonstrated how new thin-film electronics can be used to enable long-term wear SSVEP-based BCIs, and are now focused on how altered brain-states can be used to improve our scientific understanding of SSVEPs. [Funded by NSF 0955088]

Teaching robotics at Danville Correctional Center.

Teaching robotics at Danville Correctional Center.

Engineering Education in Prison

Our goal is to expand higher education in engineering to the incarcerated population. More than 2.2 million residents (0.73%) of the United States were held in state or federal prisons or in local jails at the end of year 2010. This incarceration rate is the highest in the world, and disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities: 4.35% of black males were held in custody compared to 0.68% of white males in 2010. To help address this problem, several of our members have joined the Education Justice Project, the mission of which is to build a model college-in-prison program that demonstrates the positive impacts of higher education upon incarcerated people, their families, the communities from which they come, the host institution, and society as a whole. As part of this project, we teach undergraduate courses in robotics to incarcerated men. [learn more] • [watch the ejp video documentary]