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Robots to the Rescue

Microsoft Video Features University’s Robotics Lab

mark micire
In the Microsoft video, Mark Micire, who received his doctorate in Computer Science from UMass Lowell last year, demonstrates how his DREAM controller can command a swarm of robots using his fingertips.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

A new video produced by Microsoft Research Connections that features Computer Science Prof. Holly Yanco and her Robotics Lab showcases how robots play a major role in search-and-rescue missions, particularly in disaster areas that are far too dangerous for humans. 

“During Hurricane Katrina, we had an apartment complex that otherwise would not have been searched, and so we were able to set up the robot and run it through the building,” explains former computer science student Mark Micire in the video. “We searched that building in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”

Micire joined Carnegie Mellon University as a research scientist after graduation and is now working with the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

For his doctoral thesis, Micire integrated Microsoft’s Surface tabletop computer and its natural user interface to develop a simple yet effective onscreen “joystick” — which he dubbed the DREAM controller — for commanding and controlling a swarm of robots remotely with greater ease and precisionh.

In addition to disaster relief and search-and-rescue missions, such technology could be applied to military and police operations as well as environmental monitoring and mapping, to name a few.
“By using the Surface with our robots, we think that people will be able to control robots more effectively — they’ll get information faster and thus be able to save lives,” says Yanco.