In new paper, experts working at the intersection of robotics, machine learning, and physics-based simulation share how computer simulation could accelerate the development of "smart robots" which "might interact with humans"

Jeff Trinkle, P.C. Rossin Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has co-authored a "Perspective" paper, along with along with colleagues at other institutions, arguing that "...well-validated computer simulation can provide a virtual proving ground that in many cases is instrumental in understanding safely, faster, at lower costs, and more thoroughly how the robots of the future should be designed and controlled for safe operation and improved performance."

The paper, "On the use of simulation in robotics: Opportunities, challenges, and suggestions for moving forward" (DO: 10.1073/pnas.1907856118), was published in December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 

"Against this backdrop," continue the authors, "we discuss how simulation can help in robotics, barriers that currently prevent its broad adoption, and potential steps that can eliminate some of these barriers"

The article summarizes the points of view expressed during a 2018 National Science Foundation/Department of Defense/National Institute for Standards and Technology workshop dedicated to the topic. The meeting brought together participants from a range of organizations, disciplines, and fields. The expertise represented comes from an intersection of robotics, machine learning, and physics-based simulation, says the authors.

The authors conclude: "The pressing question is how to jump start a robotics-simulation cross-pollination process that would speedily transition the effort from the 'academic debate' phase into a 'simulation-enabled building and demonstration of technology' phase. This transition can be catalyzed by a sustained decade-long financial commitment, which would ensure funding for cross-disciplinary efforts that promote collaboration, competition, and compilation of open repositories of validated models and source code. As witnessed in the aerospace and automotive industries, the paradigm shift to digital, while manifestly impactful, took decades to coalesce. Learning from this experience, the hope is that simulation will lead to breakthroughs in the design of smart robots in a matter of years rather than decades."

Read more about Trinkle and his robotics research in the Lehigh Research Review.

Story by Lori Friedman