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George Konidaris Wins An AFOSR Young Investigator Research Award

Barely a month after his arrival at Brown University's Department of Computer Science (Brown CS), Assistant Professor George Konidaris has received an Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Research award.

The objective of the Young Investigator Research program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering. George's proposal ("Constructing Abstraction Hierarchies for Robust, Real-Time Control") was one of only 56 selected chosen from more than 230 proposals in areas as diverse as aerothermodynamics, theoretical chemistry, and quantum electronic solids.

"I'm interested in robot decision-making," George says. "Robots sense the world via a constant stream of noisy, high-dimensional sensations, and can only ultimately act by emitting low-level motor control signals, but decision-making at that level of detail is just unnecessarily hard. Imagine trying to figure out where to go for lunch when you can only think about where you must place each footstep, and exactly what high-resolution images you'll see along the way.

"A core theme in my research is trying to understand how to do high-level reasoning in a low-level world; this proposal addresses one specific aspect of that, which is trying to build hierarchies that allow the robot to reason about the world at just the right level -- as abstractly as possible."

Ultimately, George hopes to develop principled algorithms for autonomously learning abstraction hierarchies, and to show that such hierarchies can very rapidly generate flexible, robust, generally-capable goal-oriented behavior. "We need to get robots acting intelligently in a wide range of environments, beyond those their designers can foresee or test."

For more information, please click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.