The USC Viterbi School of Engineering is one of 11 worldwide universities that have won grants to research and develop robotics. As a result, a Personal Robot 2 soon will arrive at the Robotics Research Lab in Tutor Hall.
According to the robot design company Willow Garage, the institutions will meet regularly over a two-year period to share their progress and explore new applications.
Professor Maja Mataric, whose group will work with the personal robots, said the award was welcome news for USC.
“Willow is the only robotics company in the U.S. that is fully endowed and so is not motivated by profit or by needing to write grants,” she said. “Instead, [it has] put the endowment toward developing the most sophisticated mobile robot for research purposes and is giving out a small number of those [endowments] to very few top robotics research institutions in the U.S. USC is one of those institutions.”
The Viterbi School’s Personal Robot 2 is a beta – a device beyond the prototype stage placed in the hands of users for trials and improvement.
The software that drives the robots is open-source – not secret, not patented, with users encouraged to write improvements and new applications.
“USC has already developed software that enables teaching the PR2 basic motor skills,” according to the proposal, “so it can adapt to different situations, such as the motions necessary to pour liquid into a cup.”
Mataric said the new grant is part of an emerging USC Viterbi School pattern.
“A couple of years ago, we also received a major National Science Foundation grant from the Major Research Infrastructure program to get a human-scale humanoid form robot with legs,” she said.
That one is being developed and customized for USC by Sarcos Inc., which is owned by Raytheon.