Princeton Robotics Seminar - Aaron Ames

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Series/Event Type

Safety-Critical Control of Dynamic Robots


Guaranteeing safe behavior is a critical component of translating robots from a laboratory setting to real-world environments in an autonomous fashion.  With this as motivation, this talk will present a safety-critical approach to the control of dynamic robotic systems, ranging from ground robots to aerial robots to legged robots.  To this end, a unified nonlinear control framework for realizing dynamic behaviors will be presented.  Underlying this approach is an optimization-based control paradigm leveraging control barrier functions that guarantee safety (represented as forward set invariance).   This methodology will be motivated by of control Lyapunov functions and framed in the context of multi-layer controllers.  The implications on autonomous systems, together with connections with learning, will be considered.  The application of these ideas will be demonstrated experimentally on a wide variety of robotic systems, including: multi-robot systems with guaranteed safe behavior, bipedal and quadrupedal robots capable of achieving dynamic walking behaviors in natural environments, and robotic assistive devices (including prostheses and exoskeletons) aimed at restoring mobility.

Speaker Bio

Aaron D. Ames is the Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems at the California Institute of Technology. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of St. Thomas in 2001, and he received a M.A. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley in 2006. Dr. Ames served as a Postdoctoral Scholar in Control and Dynamical Systems at Caltech from 2006 to 2008, began his faculty career at Texas A&M University in 2008, and was an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology before joining Caltech in 2017. At UC Berkeley, he was the recipient of the 2005 Leon O. Chua Award for achievement in nonlinear science and the 2006 Bernard Friedman Memorial Prize in Applied Mathematics. Dr. Ames received the NSF CAREER award in 2010, the 2015 Donald P. Eckman Award recognizing an outstanding young engineer in the field of automatic control, the 2019 Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize awarded for outstanding achievement in systems and control, and his papers have received multiple best paper awards at top conferences on robotics and control.

Hosting Group

Princeton Robotics Group

Research Area(s)