Aaron Ames, California Institute of Technology
Unified control of dynamic robotic systems

Oct 2, 2017, 2:00pm; EEB 132


Humans have the ability to locomote with deceptive ease, navigating everything from daily environments to uneven and uncertain terrain with efficiency and robustness. With the goal of achieving these capabilities on robotic systems, this talk will present a unified formal framework for realizing dynamic behaviors in an efficient, provably correct and safety-critical fashion, along with the application of these ideas experimentally on a wide variety of robotic systems. In particular, we will introduce an optimization-based control framework that is able to dynamically balance control objectives and safety constraints for dynamic robotic systems. These concepts will be illustrated through their application to the humanoid robot DURUS, with the result being dynamic and efficient locomotion displaying the hallmarks of natural human walking: heel-toe behavior. The translation of these ideas to robotic assistive devices, and specifically powered prostheses, will be described in the context of custom-built hardware. Finally, the extension of these concepts to safety-critical systems – including automotive applications, multi-agent systems, and swarms of quadrotors – will be discussed.


Aaron D. Ames is the Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems at the California Institute of Technology. Prior to joining Caltech, he was an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Ames received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of St. Thomas in 2001, and he received a M.A. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley in 2006. He served as a Postdoctoral Scholar in Control and Dynamical Systems at Caltech from 2006 to 2008, and began is faculty career at Texas A&M University in 2008. At UC Berkeley, he was the recipient of the 2005 Leon O. Chua Award for achievement in nonlinear science and the 2006 Bernard Friedman Memorial Prize in Applied Mathematics. Dr. Ames received the NSF CAREER award in 2010, and is the recipient of the 2015 Donald P. Eckman Award recognizing an outstanding young engineer in the field of automatic control. His research interests span the areas of robotics, nonlinear control and hybrid systems, with a special focus on applications to bipedal robotic walking—both formally and through experimental validation. His lab designs, builds and tests novel bipedal robots, humanoids and prostheses with the goal of achieving human-like bipedal robotic locomotion and translating these capabilities to robotic assistive devices.