I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at ETH Zurich, where I lead the Computational Robotics Lab (CRL). I am also an Adjunct Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. I received my PhD in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia in 2011.
I envision a future where robots will make the world a better place by becoming skilled co-workers and trusted social companions. To help make this vision come true, the overarching goal of my research is to enable robots to understand the physical world, and therefore the physical implication of their actions. This is a crucial step in the quest for robot intelligence, and it is what will enable robots to go wherever we go, to use tools and manipulate physical systems as effectively as we do, to assist us with a variety of tasks at work and at home. More specifically, I focus on a set of fundamental problem domains that constitute the pillars of my research program: robotic mobility, dexterous manipulation, and the intricate interplay between form and function for bioinspired robots.
Whether it is to augment human capabilities in the workplace or to help with chores around our homes, future generations of robots will need the skills to perform an increasingly diverse array of tasks. Consequently, I seek to develop the computational underpinnings to 1) endow robots with the intelligence necessary to dexterously manipulate complex physical systems, 2) establish a systematic way of reasoning about motor skills that combine locomotion and manipulation capabilities, and 3) enable heterogeneous robot-robot and robot-human teams to collaboratively undertake complex tasks.
In the animal kingdom, form and function are inseparably intertwined, and nature abounds with fascinating examples that illustrate how anatomical structures and motion capabilities are designed in concert. Soft tissues, in particular, are an integral part of the design of every biomechanical system, defining the performance, efficiency, robustness and safety of its movements. One of my long-term goals is to establish a systematic way of exploring this mechanical side of intelligence in order to create new breeds of robots that exploit compliant materials as effectively as living creatures do.
3D Printing is unmatched in its ability to create complex geometric structures, it employs an ever-expanding range of materials and it can create one-off parts at virtually no extra cost. These exciting new capabilities are paving the way to a shift from mass production to personalized design and fabrication. However, they also introduce significant research challenges: the vast space of design possibilities far exceeds our current ability to create content for digital fabrication. To overcome this technological barrier, I am developing novel CAD tools powered by physics-based design.
Humans and animals move with remarkable skill, grace and agility. And while we devote little thought to moving around, even mundane tasks like walking require a tremendously complex interplay of sensory information processing, motion planning, and coordinated muscle control. One of my main research goals is to study the mathematical, biomechanical and motor-learning principles required to reproduce the wide range of motions seen in nature.