Present Position: Chair of Computer Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute., Troy, NY
Degrees: B.S. Physics, Ursinus College; B.S. Engineering Science and Mechanics, Georgia Tech; Ph.D. Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
How do you describe your work at cocktail parties? We are developing software that adds contact information to a robot's brain, allowing them to work in a human environment. We are working to make robots understand a situation and then independently solve the problem.
Are you working with sensors? Sensors are incorporated in the theory, but implementation will take some time.
What implications will this technology have for design engineers? The software will help design engineers "think" by allowing them to analyze design options—whether for new robots or hard automation devices—they could not consider by current methods.
What about everyone else? With this technology robots become productive members of society, using their abilities to go to places that humans cannot: space, burning buildings, ground zero. Robots would understand the structure of rubble piles, comprehending what to move to uncover victims, and what to leave in place to avoid collapsing structures. Robots could also help the elderly live more independently, and assist in medical rehabilitation.
What are the target applications? Any job that requires dexterity as well as any system that would benefit by functioning without intermittent contact, such as parts feeders. They could also keep assembly lines running smoothly.
How are you going to commercialize it? We expect the problem-solving capabilities to hit the markets in three to five years. I may eventually build a parts feeder based on our design techniques, but it depends on how the research goes.
What tasks would you assign your personal, problem-solving robot? Dishes.
To access details on Trinkle's research, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/3854-531. Contact Trinkle at email@example.com.