Ross Allen wants his technology to guide driverless cars around cities, and help delivery drones navigate complicated flight paths, but right now he’s busy trying to hit it with a sword.
Allen is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, where he specializes in training robots to dodge obstacles at high speeds. He does most of his research on small quadcopters, as they’re one of the most adaptable, dynamic, and controllable platforms to develop collision-avoidance technology.
At a higher level, the autonomous dodging software (technically called “real-time kinodynamic motion planning”) can help vehicles or equipment navigate from point to point on a plotted course, while responding to obstacles as they pop up unexpectedly. That means a delivery drone or self-driving car could swerve to avoid an obstacle and then automatically re-plot its course to find its way back on track. Allen says it could also help autonomous boats, heavy robotic cranes, or even space ships react to minute variables during complicated procedures like picking up objects or docking with space stations.
Who knows where people come up with this stuff. The first place my mind went to was “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!”
The good news is that this work is likely to keep a lot of things and people from dying.