UNIVARSITY.ORG | Summer of Research: Making Robots Smarter, and More User Friendly
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29 Aug Summer of Research: Making Robots Smarter, and More User Friendly



This video is part of a series on summer research opportunities for undergraduates at the University of Rochester, both for our own students, and for students from other research universities.

Programming language can look foreign to someone who has never written code, but for a computer scientist, it’s second nature. For robots, it has been the only way to communicate with their human counterparts, until recent advances in the field of human computer interaction.

For Steven Broida, a rising senior at the University of Rochester who is majoring in computer science, helping to further bridge that gap between people and robots is a goal of his summer research. Specifically, building a program that can not only understand human speech and act on simple commands, but learn its environment and become smarter as it works with people and learns their needs.

Eventually, the program he is creating could be used to control a robotic arm attached to a wheelchair, assisting people with limited mobility to perform daily tasks using only voice commands.

It’s a complicated problem to get all of these elements to work together, and to get them to work well enough to put it into use in someone’s home. There will still be much more work to be done to make this device feasible for practical use, and during the academic year, the time needed to do that work is not plentiful. During the summer however, an REU (research experiences for undergraduates) provides the freedom to explore a project like this over the course of an 8 week program.

For Broida, it’s the kind of unique opportunity that can help him to decide if working in an academic research setting is the right career path. It can also provide the opportunity to make progress on a real problem that can make a difference in many people’s daily lives.

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