My principal research objective is to create innovative solutions that address the needs of technologically underserved communities. Primarily I work with resource-constrained developing communities where the accessible infrastructure and indigenous skills are very different from the norms prevalent in the technologically developed world. I have also increasingly invested time in addressing the needs of “differently-abled” communities with a focus on educational tools for the visually impaired and for the deaf. An important aspect of my work is to focus my efforts on innovative technology that empowers these underserved communities in a manner that is culturally relevant and locally sustainable. My work in this area has helped to pioneer the fast growing field of ICTD (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) and my TechBridgeWorld research group, which now spans both the Pittsburgh and Doha campuses, is growing in recognition for our contributions to this field.
A second research area where I strive to advance the state-of-the-art is autonomous team coordination in dynamic and uncertain environments. My doctoral work produced the conceptual framework and experimental verification that underlies the “TraderBots” software module that allows market-based coordination of a team under dynamic conditions. Market-based coordination solves the task-allocation problem by creating a virtual economy where the robots are traders, tasks and resources are traded commodities, and allocations are determined via auctions. I have extended this work in several ways and am currently exploring three primary topics in this area: extending market-based techniques to enable allocation of tightly-coordinated tasks, coordinating human-robot teams, and employing mathematical programming techniques to allow optimal coordination of smaller teams.
In both of my core research areas, my focus is on fieldable systems. As a faculty member of the Field Robotics Center, I am interested in technology solutions that are informed by the needs and input of real-world users, and are robust to the dynamic and uncertain realities of fieldwork. Through all of my work I seek to enhance the state of the art in field robotics by contributing to the knowledge and literature on fielding intelligent autonomous systems in the context of teamwork and serving the needs of developing communities. I also strive to empower, educate, and inspire the future leaders in these research areas through a variety of educational programs and mentoring activities.