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News from IRIM | April 21, 2021 Edition
IRIM Teams Net Awards & News

Andrew Silva & Joanne Truong Named  Recipients of the 2021 Apple Scholars in AI/ML Award

Andrew Silva | Georgia Institute of TechnologyJoanne Truong and Andrew Silva have been recognized as 2021 Apple Scholars. The program honors the contributions of emerging leaders in engineering and computer science at the graduate and post-graduate level.

Truong and Silva are members of the program’s second cohort and are the first Georgia Tech students to be awarded the scholarships.

Apple Scholars receive a two-year mentorship with an Apple researcher in their field, support for their research and academic travel for two years, and internship opportunities. Truong and Silva were selected based on their record as thought leaders and collaborators, their innovative research, and commitment to push the boundaries of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Truong is a second-year robotics Ph.D. student whose research improves robot’s capabilities to physically interact with their environments to improve a human’s quality of life. Her research also examines how virtual agents can inspire creativity through conversations and demonstrations. Truong is co-advised by School of Interactive Computing (IC) Associate Professors Dhruv Batra and Sonia Chernova.
Silva is a second-year doctorate student advised by IC Assistant Professor Matthew Gombolay. His research combines machine learning and robotics to study how interactive intelligence can be improved and leveraged for a variety of tasks. Silva is specifically interested in multi-modal or contextual problems and low-data situations. This research will ideally lead to humans and robots being able to have a two-way dialogue and with humans having the ability to tweak how robots or digital agents work to fit their lives or expectations.

 Frame-by-frame Sawyer Table Tennis Robot Policy Illustration

From Table-Tennis to Household Help: Adversarial Inverse Reinforcement Learning for Better Trained Robots
Like a parent teaching their child the basics of how to swing a tennis racket, Georgia Tech robotics student Rohan Paleja stands behind the robotic Ping Pong paddle-wielding arm and deliberately moves it forward at the small white ball being fired across the table.

In a less-than-perfect demonstration, Paleja helps the robot connect with the ball and send it across the net to the other side. A few more demonstrations render results of varying qualities – a few fly off the table and a couple land with just a hint of backspin.

It’s the best Paleja can do. For one, he’s no Fan Zhendong, gold medalist at the 2020 International Table Tennis Federation World Cup. And even if he was, his ability to swing the robot’s arm in a proper motion is nothing next to his ability to swing his own.

And yet moments later, with no further demonstration, the robotic arm on its own swings the paddle forward in a perfect cutting motion, placing enough backspin on the ball that it shoots across the net, hits once, and checks up in the other direction – a perfect shot.

It’s a fun bit of a research – teaching a robot to automatically improve its table tennis performance from a suboptimal human demonstration – but it could pave the way for vital advancements to the future of robotics, from health care and elder care to home assistants, defense, space exploration, and more.

“We want to be able to put robots in the hands of end users who might not have extensive computer science training but want to be able to teach it to help perform novel skills in their everyday lives,” said
Matthew Gombolay, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing and faculty lead on the research. “This could be something as simple as helping someone fold their clothes or perform other tasks in the home all the way up to robot-assisted surgery.”

Rohan Paleja, Zac Chen, and Matthew Gombolay have developed an approach that helps a robot to automatically improve on tasks after a suboptimal demonstration. It’s a fun bit of a research – teaching a robot to automatically improve its table tennis performance from a suboptimal human demonstration – but it could pave the way for vital advancements to the future of robotics, from health care and elder care to home assistants, defense, space exploration, and more.
Career Ops
Honda Research Institute USA

List of Jobs: Follow this link for detailed job description

Computer Vision Scientist: Language and Vision (Job Number: P19F04)
Computer Vision Scientist: Visual Scene Understanding (Job Number: P19F05)
Scientist: Intention Estimation for Teleoperation (Job Number: P19T04)
Scientist: Interaction Modeling for Robotic Manipulation (Job Number: P20T01)
Scientist: Visuo-Tactile Perception for In-Hand Object Manipulation (Job Number: P20T02)
Scientist: Perception of Articulated Object Properties for Manipulation (Job Number: P20T03)
Scientist: Deep Reinforcement Learning for Dexterous Object Manipulation (Job Number: P20T04)

How to Apply
Please send an e-mail to with the following:
  • Subject line including the job number(s) you are applying for
  • A cover letter explaining how your background matches the qualifications
  • Recent CV
  • Topics you are interested in (optional)
  • Candidates must have the legal right to work in the U.S.A

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Seeking Post-Docs

The US Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate, RW/Advanced Guidance is looking for talented post-doctoral scholars to work on a variety of problems related to robust guidance, navigation, and control (GNC), and sensor optimization.  Positions are open to US Citizens only.
IRIM Faculty Lab Highlight
Healthcare Robotics Lab

Charles C. Kemp | Associate Professor; Coulter School of Biomedical Engineering
The Healthcare Robotics Lab is an interdisciplinary comprised of members from Biomedical Engineering, Interactive Computing, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Applied Physiology.

Their research seeks to advance the capabilities of real robots so that they can provide valued assistance to people in unstructured environments. The lab works with semi-autonomous mobile robots that physically manipulate the world (mobile manipulators). Healthcare serves as an important motivating application area for most of our research. Their projects involve research into human-robot interaction, autonomous mobile manipulation, machine perception, machine learning, and haptics.

The Healthcare Robotics Lab is part of the Department of
Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University  and is affiliated with the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines.
PR2 mobile manipulator

Learn more about the lab here
How Do People Respond to Being Touched by a Robot?
Charlie Kemp | Associate Professor; Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

Frontiers in Mechanical Engineering and Sciences: Distinguished Seminar

Artificial Intelligence | The Future of Work and AI – Making Us and AI Smarter Together

Speaker: Ayanna Howard | Dean of Engineering: Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean's Chair; College of Engineering, The Ohio State University

Moderator: Samuel Graham |
Eugene C. Gwaltney, Jr. School Chair and Professor
George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Georgia Tech
April 23, 2021 –Fridays at 3:30 PM (ET), 12:30 PM (PT
Abstract: There is both hope and fear regarding the advance of AI technologies: will they be our closest partners, or a threat to our jobs, safety, and well-being? In this talk, Professor Ayanna Howard focuses on the AI and robot technologies that can and will drastically change our lives and our jobs by: augmenting menial tasks, allowing knowledge workers to accomplish their goals more efficiently, and meticulously personalize learning. In this presentation, Howard draws on examples ranging from wearables to collaborative AI to emotional robots in order to demonstrate how machines can help improve our lives and assist us in doing better. She further discusses how we can develop strategies that mitigate empathy and reciprocate trust between machines and people by capitalizing on our own human strengths.
Join the webinar:

Join by phone: +1-415-655-0001 US TOLL | Access code: 172 453 9606
University Affiliate Event
 Virtual Seminar Series on the Intersection of Control &  Learning
Wednesdays 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. (Pacific Time)
Patricio Antonio Vela

April 28, 2021

Patricio Antonio Vela
Georgia Tech

To access the viewing information, please visit the series site here.
EVPR COVID News & Guidance

Reminder: Lab Personnel Density Guidance
Georgia Tech is piloting a revised guideline to accommodate laboratories with lower personnel numbers and sufficient excess space in their laboratory. Read the revised guideline.

Weekly Testing Locations
If you live or work on campus, we strongly encourage you to get tested weekly, even if you aren’t experiencing Covid-19 symptoms. This is an essential part of protecting yourself and the Georgia Tech community. There are several options for getting tested, both on and off campus. See the current schedules and locations at this link.

Vaccine Roll-Out
The Institute has been working diligently with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop a vaccine rollout plan for the entire campus community. This plan consists of consecutive phases with corresponding groups. See the vaccine plane here.

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Atlanta, GA 30332-3000

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