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  • CS Colloquium: Chris Heckman (University of Colorado at Boulder) - Failure is Not an Option: Our Techniques at the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, Lessons Learned, and Next Steps

    Tue, Sep 13, 2022 @ 03:30 PM - 04:50 PM

    Thomas Lord Department of Computer Science

    Conferences, Lectures, & Seminars

    Speaker: Chris Heckman, University of Colorado at Boulder

    Talk Title: Failure is Not an Option: Our Techniques at the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, Lessons Learned, and Next Steps

    Series: Computer Science Colloquium

    Abstract: When we in the robotics research community think of what we'd like autonomous agents to tackle in the future, we often target "dull, dirty, and dangerous" tasks. However, despite a sustained boom in robotics research over the last decade, the number of places we've seen robotics in use for these tasks has been uninspiring. Successful commercialization of autonomous robots have required significant human scaffolding through teleoperation, and incredible amounts of capital, to achieve, and despite this are still limited by brittle systems and hand-engineered components. The reality seems to be that these tasks are not nearly as dull as they might seem on the surface, and instead require ingenuity for success some small but critical fraction of the time. In this talk, I focus on my recent investigation into where the limits of autonomy are for the highly sought-after application to subterranean emergency response operations. This application was motivated by the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, which just last year concluded with the CU Boulder team "MARBLE" taking third place and winning a $500,000 prize. In this talk, I will give an overview into the genesis of our solution over three years of effort, especially with respect to mobility, autonomy, perception, and communications. I'll also discuss the implications for present-day robotic autonomy and where we go from here.

    Prof. Heckman will give his talk in person at RTH 115 and we will also host the talk over Zoom.

    Register in advance for this webinar at:


    After registering, attendees will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

    This lecture satisfies requirements for CSCI 591: Research Colloquium.

    Biography: Chris Heckman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Jacques I. Pankove Faculty Fellow in the College of Engineering & Applied Science. He is also a Visiting Academic with Amazon Scout, where he is addressing last-mile delivery by developing autonomous robots on sidewalks. He earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley in 2008 and his PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University in 2012, where he was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. He had postdoctoral appointments at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC as an NRC Research Associate, and at CU Boulder as a Research Scientist, before joining the faculty there in 2016.

    Heckman's research focuses on autonomy, perception, field robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. He directs the Autonomous Robotics and Perception Group, a dynamic and close-knit research team aiming to develop practical and explainable techniques in probabilistic artificial intelligence. His work in computer vision, machine learning and sensor fusion has applications to intelligence, defense, and environmental monitoring. His robotics work is used by both government and industry partners in the development of autonomous vehicles, agricultural platforms and other mobile robots including for medicine, search & rescue, and automation. https://www.colorado.edu/cs/christoffer-heckman

    Host: Stefanos Nikolaidis

    Webcast: https://usc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2KFODX4RQ6WMU12J6IsIHg

    Location: Ronald Tutor Hall of Engineering (RTH) - 115

    WebCast Link: https://usc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2KFODX4RQ6WMU12J6IsIHg

    Audiences: Everyone Is Invited

    Contact: Department of Computer Science

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