Two University System of Maryland institutions are teaming with the Adelphi-based U.S. Army Research Lab on a research cooperative focused around advancing artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomy.
The five-year effort could provide up to $68 million in funding for a team of researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park and UMBC. The team will aim to create new devices and technology in a range of areas, all with the goal of helping humans with tasks, and reducing risk in difficult environments like search-and-rescue operations after a natural disaster.
“This is a big partnership with an ambitious vision: We want to change the world by quickly getting AI and autonomy into the hands of the people who need it,” said UMD Professor Derek Paley, lead researcher on the agreement and director of the Maryland Robotics Center, in a statement. “No matter how autonomous we think a system is, a human operator will interface with it at some level. The goal is to migrate the dangerous, dirty and dull work to the autonomous platform.”
Along with funding, the effort will also provide access to Army Research Lab facilities. One is its Robotics Research Collaborative Campus, which is a 200-acre outdoor testing lab located north of Baltimore. The team will also develop infrastructure to share that will aid in development of the technology, including a “virtual proving ground.”
At UMD, the research is being co-led by professors Paley, Dinesh Manocha and Jeffrey Herrmann. UMD has a long-term partnership with the Army Research Lab, which this effort is building on.
“The question we’re trying to solve is: Can we design and develop tools, techniques, algorithms, software, and hardware that can work autonomously and make their own decisions, but also collectively, interfacing with human decision makers?” said UMBC’s principal investigator and professor of information systems, Aryya Gangopadhyay.
UMBC’s Center for Real-time Distributed Sensing and Autonomy will lead the study for that university, where the effort could grow to as many as 50 researchers. They’ll focus on technology including AI-based networking, sensing, and edge computing. The goal is to create tech that can be used for search-and-rescue, robots and “augmenting humans in performing decision-making tasks,” per UMBC.
Along with Gangopadhyay, the UMBC team also includes Nirmalya Roy, Anupam Joshi, Tinoosh Mohsenin, Dmitri Perkins, Sanjay Purushotham, Maryam Rahnemoonfar, Jianwu Wang and Ting Zhu.
The military has a long history of developing technology that is later commercialized (hi, the internet). So the teams will look at applications that go beyond the immediate needs of the armed forces, as well. It’s a reminder: Alongside startups and software companies, Maryland has a concentration of federal labs conducting R&D on tech that we could someday see in the market.-30-