October 19, 2022

You are invited to the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering’s annual Dean W. Lytle Endowed Lecture Series.

 We are extremely excited to welcome Anca Dragan, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley, as this year’s keynote speaker. Her lecture, Robotics algorithms that take people into account, will be held on Monday, November 14 from 3:15–4:30 p.m. Please click the button below to register for the event. 

 Abstract: I discovered AI by reading “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach”. What drew me in was the concept that you could specify a goal or objective for a robot, and it would be able to figure out on its own how to sequence actions in order to achieve it. In other words, we don’t have to hand-engineer the robot’s behavior — it emerges from optimal decision making. Throughout my career in robotics and AI, it has always felt satisfying when the robot would autonomously generate a strategy that I felt was the right way to solve the task, and it was even better when the optimal solution would take me a bit by surprise. In “Intro to AI” I share with students an example of this, where a mobile robot figures out it can avoid getting stuck in a pit by moving along the edge. In my group’s research, we tackle the problem of enabling robots to coordinate with and assist people: for example, autonomous cars driving among pedestrians and human-driven vehicles, or robot arms helping people with motor impairments (together with UCSF Neurology). And time and time again, what has sparked the most joy for me is when robots figure out their own strategies that lead to good interaction — when we don’t have to hand-engineer that an autonomous car should inch forward at a 4-way stop to assert its turn, for instance, but instead, the behavior emerges from optimal decision making. In this talk, I want to share how we’ve set up optimal decision making problems that require the robot to account for the people it is interacting with, and the surprising strategies that have emerged from that along the way. And I am very proud to say that you can also read a bit about these aspects now in the 4th edition of “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach”, where I had the opportunity to edit the robotics chapter to include optimization and interaction.