Carnegie Mellon University

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April 01, 2011

Reveling in Robot Innovations

By Byron Spice

Robots come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like cars or toys — others like humans — and their diversity will be celebrated at Carnegie Mellon during National Robotics Week, April 11-15.

During that time, there will research project demonstrations at the Robotics Institute, the annual Mobot races and the annual Teruko Yata Memorial Lecture, featuring William Swartout of the University of Southern California. The celebration overlaps with Spring Carnival, April 14-16.

The week’s aim is to highlight the growing importance of robotics in a wide variety of application areas, recognize robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation and to emphasize robotics’ ability to inspire.

“Now in its second year, National Robotics Week continues to be a tremendous success in educating the public on how robotics impacts society, both now and in the future,” said Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania’s 14th District, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Robotics. “Robotics provides an exciting, hands-on way for students to learn science, technology, engineering and math subjects, and the industry is poised to create many high-tech jobs in the U.S. in areas ranging from manufacturing to health care.”

Swartout, director of technology for the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), kicks off the celebration by presenting the Yata Lecture at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, April 14 in the Rashid Auditorium of the Gates and Hillman centers. Swartout has been involved in the research and development of artificial intelligence systems for more than 30 years, and his research interests include virtual humans.

At ICT, Swartout provides overall direction for the institute’s research programs and leads the National Science Foundation-funded museum guides project, which is bringing ICT-created virtual humans to the Museum of Science in Boston. In 2009, he received the Robert Engelmore Award from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence for seminal contributions to knowledge-based systems and explanation, groundbreaking research on virtual human technologies and their applications, and outstanding service to the artificial intelligence community.

On Friday, April 15, the Robotics Institute will host demonstrations from noon to 4 p.m. in the Planetary Robotics Lab highbay on the first floor of the Gates and Hillman centers. A limited number of openings are available for hourly demonstrations of balance experiments with a life-sized Sarcos humanoid robot. A reception in the highbay will follow from 4 to 6 p.m.

Pre-registration is requested by April 11 for the April 14 Yata lecture and reception as well as the April 15 humanoid tours and robotics reception. More information and links to the pre-registration form are available in the Events and Activities section of the Robotics Institute website,

Also on Friday, April 15, the School of Computer Science will host the 17th annual Mobot races,, from noon to 2 p.m. on the mall. Participants will race their small autonomous vehicles they created through a slalom course on the paved walk outside Doherty and Wean halls.