Starting a new MOOC series on Robotics!

I’m super excited to be taking a new MOOC specialization on Coursera taught by Dr. Vijay Kumar of UPenn’s GRASP lab. His team has produced some of the most spectacular advances in quadrotor applications I’ve ever seen and this comes at a time when I’m looking for more fun projects to work on. His talks have been a great inspiration to the aspiring roboticist and an encouraging sign for the near-future of robotics that lay at the intersection of computer science and the real world.

The demonstrations (linked above) of robot sensing and applications of swarm intelligence learned from hive-insect behaviors have been truly fascinating. It’s kind of humbling to see how much nature has provided us meaningful behaviors that we are now applying in our robots. Evolution may be slow, but when it comes to artificial intelligence and autonomous agents, biology is as much an inspiration as the mechanical-electrical bits.

Quite scary to think of how this technology could be used if in the wrong hands. Worst-case-scenario thinking provides ominous support to those at the Future of Life Institute and major figures increasingly signing on to the notion that AI in the wrong hands is an existential risk to humanity. (imagine: organized autonomous killing machines). But it’s also very clear through the demonstrations today that robotics has a bright future in positive applications.

So, with that in mind, I’m excited to take these courses because they appear to be a fairly comprehensive survey across the foundations of robotics and a unique opportunity to engage with fellow academic-hobbyists that want to get started in one of the cutting edge applications of computer science to the real world.

The courses include:

  1. Aerial Robotics
  2. Computational Motion Planning
  3. Mobility
  4. Estimation and Learning
  5. Perception

These courses are nice little reminder that for-profit Coursera hasn’t abandoned the segment of those who just want to learn and care not for a piece of paper. Many thanks to UPenn for continuing to produce such well produced MOOCs and whoever the media team was that produced Dr Kumar’s content.

I can do my part and encourage anyone ranging from the curious to serious hobbyists that want to gain a more solid academic foundation from one of the leading minds in robotics today, go take these MOOCS! Starts February 15th and looks to be ending sometime in June(?).

Here’s Dr Kumar’s trailer: