Robotics in the News

Developing Robotic Bridge and Tunnel Inspection

Volgenau engineers with Occulus Rift
David Lattanzi (on left), Assistant Professor, and Ali Khaloo, graduate student, work with Oculus hardware. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

Anyone who has ever tried to navigate a busy street or drive on an interstate highway when roadwork is going on knows that traditional repair methods can be a slow and cumbersome process. These methods use heavy equipment and often place workers in life-threatening situations. That’s where Volgenau professor David Lattanzi believes robots can help. “If we can develop safe, cost-effective and accurate robotic inspection tools, we can eliminate many of the dangers of this hazardous work,” he says. Lattanzi and his research team are studying how to convert robotic inspection information into virtual computer “worlds” that can be explored by a human inspector. They adapted techniques from computer vision, such as Structure From Motion, and virtual reality equipment like the Oculus Rift. Read more about robots and the workplace


Mason Students and Alums Readied Robots to Rumble 

Robots brought Jacob Cohen's future to life and he's returning the favor. The George Mason University graduate returned to the Patriot Center (now Eagle Bank Arena) to mentor students from his former high school in Haymarket, Virginia, as their six-foot-tall robot competed in the FIRST Robotics DC regional competition. "I was Mr. Fix-It in my family from age 6," says Cohen, who earned his computer engineering degree from George Mason last year. "I didn't know what computer engineering was until I joined the ILITE Robotics team at Battlefield High School. It just clicked. Plus, robots are also a ton of fun." Read more about building robots


Portrait of Volgenau's Jana Košecká

Dr. Jana Košecká

Improving Robot Navigation and Localization

Imagine being dropped off in a new city without a map or your GPS. 

Think about how you would move around and not get lost. Most people would try to recognize landmarks and keep track of their turns and motions, so they can eventually reach their destination or can retrace their steps.

Now, imagine doing this with your eyes closed. That's what it feels like to be a robot without "eyesight."

The problem of navigation and localization is one of the main challenges robots or autonomous cars must solve very accurately, and Dr. Jana Košecká's research seeks to open the "eyes" of robots allowing them to perceive the visual world.  Read more about how robots "see"


Engineering Students Are Mentors in Robotics Competition

George Mason University Honors College student Jordan Newton, roped into joining her high school robotics team as a sophomore, was just along for the ride when she headed to the FIRST Robotics competition. "I thought, okay, it's a robotics competition. It's going to be golf-clapping and boring with a bunch of engineers who don't know how to talk to each other," says Newton, who attended Deep Run High in the Richmond, Virginia, area. What she encountered — flying machinery, clamorous cheering and dancing, flamboyant customized team T-shirts, the manic flurry of activity in the working area known as "the Pit" — changed her life. Thanks in part to her efforts in helping her team succeed that day, robotics became her passion and helped shape her decision to come to Mason to major in computer science. Read more about the Robotics competition