Carnegie Mellon University
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Matthew T. Mason
Professor, RI/CS
Office: NSH A521
Phone: (412) 268-8804
Fax: 412-268-6436
  Mailing address:
Carnegie Mellon University
Robotics Institute
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

For appointments, please contact:
Jean Harpley, (412) 268 3802, NSH 4303 (

Administrative Assistant: Jean Harpley
Affiliated Center(s):
 Center for the Foundations of Robotics (CFR)
Personal Homepage
Research Interests

I work on manipulation, mainly robotic manipulation, but in addition I have started working on manipulation by human beings. The primary locus for my work is the Manipulation Lab also known as the MLab.

Simple Hands. My primary focus for the last five years or so has been simple hands. I think simple hands are better than complex anthropomorphic hands, both for research purposes and for near-term practical use. The main reason is that the dexterity of a hand is mostly about the brain, not the hand. Our approach mixes a strong dose of machine learning into the traditional brew of AI, control and mechanical design. If you're curious, there are publications here. Probably the first one to read is the 2012 IJRR paper Autonomous Manipulation with a General-Purpose Simple Hand. Also see related papers from ICRA 2013 andRSS 2011, both of which won best student paper awards. The project began with NSF funding and is continuing with funds from the Army Research Office and ABB.

Human manipulation. It is strange how little we seem to know (scientifically) about human maniplulation. It seems we know more about ape manipulation than human manipulation. A 2001 study identified 190 different ape manipulation primitives used in a single task. There hasn't been a comparable study of human behavior. Robotics research papers are full of assertions about how humans behave, often with little or no scientific basis. The immediate plan, working with Professor Nancy Pollard, is to use citizen science to analyze the vast corpus of human manipulation videos available on the web. The resulting database would support work on robotic manipulation as well as plain old scientific research on human behavior.

Research Interest Keywords
artificial intelligenceassemblycontrolfactory and warehouse automationmanipulationmanufacturingmechatronicsmobile robotsmotion planningobstacle avoidanceplanning and scheduling