Campus news in brief

Boeing creates aerospace data lab at CMU

Chicago-based aeronautics and space engineering company Boeing has teamed up with Carnegie Mellon to create a new lab on campus. Officially called the Boeing/Carnegie Mellon Aerospace Analytics Lab, the lab is meant to expand Carnegie Mellon’s research in aerospace, language — and a subject quite relevant on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, — machine learning.

Having several contracts with the federal government, Boeing teamed up with Carnegie Mellon to utilize the school’s expertise in these areas. Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Language Technologies Institute Jaime Carbonell leads the team of Carnegie Mellon researchers.

Boeing is no stranger to Carnegie Mellon, nor to its Pittsburgh campus. In fact, one of the company’s former employees, John Vu, is now a professor in language technologies and computational biology. Vu now plays an extensive role in coordinating the relationship between the school and the company.

University President Subra Suresh has expressed excitement in the role the new lab will play. “Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Boeing have enjoyed a collaborative relationship for more than 30 years and we’re proud of the fact that hundreds of our graduates are working at Boeing,” Suresh said in a university press release.

Chief Information Officer at Boeing Ted Colbert also expressed excitement for the project. Describing the lab as a one-of-a-kind research center, Colbert hoped to see it benefit Boeing’s corporate endeavors in the near future. “We’re aiming to push the technology envelope,” Colbert said in the University press release.

“We have the best and the brightest faculty at a leading institution focused on how we can innovate and solve business challenges for today and into the future.”

CMU engineers add optic sensors to bots

A new type of robotic hand made its way into the world of robotics through the efforts of Carnegie Mellon engineers: a hand with optic sensors. The hand has fingers just as a human hand does, with 14 separate optic sensors, each acting to sense the hand’s position relative to its surroundings — that is, anything touching the sensors with a force of a tenth of a newton or greater.

“If you want robots to work autonomously and to react safely to unexpected forces in everyday environments, you need robotic hands that have more sensors than is typical today,” assistant professor of robotics Yong-Lae Park said in a university press release. These hands also need to mimic the human hand. “Human skin contains thousands of tactile sensory units only in the fingertip and a spider has hundreds of mechanoreceptors on each leg, but even a state-of-the-art humanoid such as NASA’s Robonaut has only 42 sensors in its hand and wrist,” Park added.

Carnegie Mellon researchers are excited about this new capability, and presented it at the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Hamburg, Germany on Oct. 1.