Sunday, March 9, 2014

2014-02-27: Autonomy Incubator Seminar Series, Dr. Massmiliano Versace

Dr. Massmiliano "Max" Versace, founding Director of the Neuromorphics Lab at Boston University and CEO of Neurala Inc. was the February speaker in our monthly seminar series. He talked about the state-of-the-art in neuromorphic "brain-based" computing, in particular its relevance to support advanced autonomous behavior in land and aerial vehicles. The talk focused on large-scale neuromorphic models that simulate key elements of perceptual, cognitive, and motivational competencies in both virtual environments and land/air robotic platforms. Compared to alternative approaches, the discussed neuromorphic solutions rely on parallel processing as well as learning and adaptation in relatively simple, neural-like computing elements to solve problems ranging from navigation to sense- and decision-making. The most intriguing implication of neuromorphic research for robotics is that, quite often, the mechanisms observed in the brain appear as natural solutions to the problems that robotic navigation are struggling with, namely: the fusion of multiple sensory streams that dynamically correct each other, increasing the overall precision of the system; redundant representations that increase system robustness; and attractor dynamics that work as a low pass filter to reduce the effects of sensory noise. The talk illustrated two main applications of this principle in the context of the “Adaptive bio-inspired navigation for planetary exploration” NASA STTR Phase II (NASA Langley with Boston University Neuromorphics Laboratory and Neurala LLC). This effort seeks to translate neuroscience research on animal navigation and sensing into usable software that can control land robots and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) specifically a “mini-brain” that can drive a Mars rover in a virtual environment as well as applications to UAV collision avoidance.

Here are his charts: