More Than Just a Pretty Face

Meet Dreamer, a wide-eyed humanoid robot whose successors might just save your life some day.

In 2010, Dr. Luis Sentis, assistant professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering, launched The Human Centered Robotics Lab (HCRL) to develop a new breed of robots, such as Dreamer, that can interact safely with humans, perform tasks with flexibility and precision and go places too dangerous for humans.

"I really believe that robots will save money and save lives." —Luis Sentis

Sentis and his team of student researchers have worked diligently over the years on developing Dreamer’s software and hardware. Today, Dreamer is equipped with wheels for mobility, hands and fingers that are capable of gripping objects, and large expressive eyes that not only invite human interaction but are also high-resolution cameras.

Rather than purchasing Dreamer’s wheelbase, Sentis opted to have a team of high school students and UT undergraduates design it. “I could have purchased a base, but I wanted to educate as many people as possible,” Sentis says.

It’s expected that future iterations of humanoid robots will have the ability to accomplish tasks as varied as delivering food and medicine in war zones, preventing nuclear disaster by entering compromised power plants and even working hand-in-hand with NASA on distant planets.

The biggest hurdle for Sentis and his team in getting humanoids to their next level of development is self-regulated mobility.

"You need to use your cameras (on board the robot), your sensors and lasers to perceive and respond to the environment," Sentis explains. "The goal is to go outdoors and adapt to the environment and task. Right now, robots can’t go into a place where there are obstacles or debris. We are trying to solve this problem."

Recently, the HCRL unveiled the Cloud-based Advanced Robotics Laboratory (CARL), a web-based portal through which Dreamer and other humanoid robots can be observed and controlled from anywhere in the world on a smartphone or tablet.

 

Revolutionizing the way robots and humans interact, that's how we change the world!

 

President Fenves and Dreamer

President Fenves and Dreamer at the 2015 Innovation Showcase. UT Austin