Many stages of state-of-the-art robotics pipelines rely on the solutions of underlying optimization algorithms. Unfortunately, many of these approaches rely on simplifications and conservative approximations in order to reduce their computational complexity and support online operation. At the same time, parallelism has been used to significantly increase the throughput of computationally expensive algorithms across the field of computer science. And, with the widespread adoption of parallel computing platforms such as GPUs, it is natural to consider whether these architectures can benefit robotics researchers interested in solving computationally constrained problems online. This course will provide students with an introduction to both parallel programming on CPUs and GPUs as well as optimization algorithms for robotics applications. It will then dive into the intersection of those fields through case studies of recent state-of-the-art research and culminate in a team-based final project.
We introduce RobotCore, an architecture to integrate hardware acceleration in the widely-used ROS 2 robotics software framework. This architecture is target-agnostic (supports edge, workstation, data center, or cloud targets) and accelerator-agnostic (supports both FPGAs and GPUs). It builds on top of the common ROS 2 build system and tools and is easily portable across different research and commercial solutions through a new firmware layer. We also leverage the Linux Tracing Toolkit next generation (LTTng) for low-overhead real-time tracing and benchmarking. To demonstrate the acceleration enabled by this architecture, we design an intra-FPGA ROS 2 node communication queue to enable faster data flows, and use it in conjunction with FPGA-accelerated nodes to achieve a 24.42% speedup over a CPU.
As a step toward robust learning pipelines for these constrained robot platforms, we demonstrate how existing state-of-the-art imitation learning pipelines can be modified and augmented to support low-cost, limited hardware. By reducing our model’s observational space, leveraging TinyML to quantize our model, and adjusting the model outputs through post-processing, we are able to learn and deploy successful walking gaits on an 8-DoF, $299 (USD) toy quadruped robot that has reduced actuation and sensor feedback, as well as limited computing resources.
Tiny robot learning lies at the intersection of embedded systems, robotics, and ML, compounding the challenges of these domains. This paper gives a brief survey of the tiny robot learning space, elaborates on key challenges, and proposes promising opportunities for future work in ML system design.
Robots are cyber-physical systems – leveraging computational intelligence to sense and interact with the real world. As such, robotics is a very diverse, cross-disciplinary field. This introductory course exposes learners to the vast opportunities and challenges posed by the interdisciplinary nature of robotics. While grounded and focused in computation this course also explores hands-on electromechanical and ethical topics that are an integral part of a real-world robotic system. Topics will include: a survey of the algorithmic robotics pipeline (perception, mapping, localization, planning, control, and learning), an introduction to cyber-physical system design, and responsible AI. The course will culminate in a team-based final project.
Mind the Gap: Opportunities and Challenges in the Transition Between Research and Industry is aimed at bridging the gap between academia and industry. For researchers, this workshop will help lift the curtain on the realities of academic to industry tech transfer. For industry experts, this workshop provides an opportunity to influence the direction of academic research. For both, we hope to provide an venue for integrated dialogue and identification of new potential collaborations.
We introduce robomorphic computing; a methodology to transform robot morphology into a customized hardware accelerator morphology. In this work, we (i) present this design methodology; (ii) use the methodology to generate a parameterized accelerator design for the gradient of rigid body dynamics; (iii) evaluate FPGA and synthesized ASIC implementations; and (iv) describe how the design can be automatically customized for other robot models. Our FPGA accelerator achieves speedups of 8x and 86x over CPU and GPU latency, and maintains an overall speedup of 1.9x to 2.9x deployed in an end-to-end coprocessor system. ASIC synthesis indicates an additional factor of 7.2x.
Modern embedded systems are intelligent devices that involve complex hardware and software to perform a multitude of cognitive functions collaboratively. Designing such systems requires us to have deep understanding of the target application domains, as well as an appreciation for the coupling between the hardware and the software subsystems.This course is structured around building “systems” for Autonomous Machines (cars, drones, ground robots, manipulators, etc.). For example, we will discuss what are all the hardware and software components that are involved in developing the intelligence required for an autonomous car?
Driverless vehicle technology has been growing at an exponential pace since the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges pushed the state of the art to demonstrate what was already possible. Commercial interest and aggressive development are being driven by Google, Toyota, Tesla, Continental, Uber, Apple, NVidia, and many other companies. There is no single technology or “killer app” available to solve the myriad perception, understanding, localization, planning, and control problems required to achieve robust navigation in highly variable, extremely complex and dynamically changing environments. This summer, Beaver Works Summer Institute will offer nine teams of five students, each with its own MIT-designed RACECAR (Rapid Autonomous Complex Environment Competing Ackermann steeRing) robot, the opportunity to explore the broad spectrum of research in these areas, learn to collaborate, and demonstrate fast, autonomous navigation in a Mini Grand Prix to Move... Explore... Learn...Race!