Professors Aaron Ames and Joel Burdick have launched a new research initiative, RoAM (Robotic Assisted Mobility), aimed at restoring natural and stable locomotion to individuals with walking deficiencies that result from spinal cord injuries and strokes. RoAm unites robotic assistive devices—including exoskeletons and prostheses—with artificial intelligence (AI)-infused neurocontrol. "Bipedal walking is difficult to achieve in a stable fashion," says Professor Ames. "While crutches help users of the exoskeletons to stay upright, they undercut many of the health benefits that upright locomotion might otherwise provide. In addition, they do not allow users to do anything else with their hands while walking." [Caltech story]
Peter Schroeder, Shaler Arthur Hanisch Professor of Computer Science and Applied and Computational Mathematics, and colleagues have generated a computer simulation of underwater bubble rings that is so realistic it is virtually indistinguishable from a video of the real thing. "What drives me is finding these beautiful descriptions of something that looks terribly complicated but can be reduced to a few mathematical key concepts. Then the rest just follows from there. There's beauty in seeing that a very simple principle all of a sudden gives rise to the complex appearance we perceive," Professor Schröder says. [Caltech story]
A team of researchers including Noah Olsman (PhD ’19), John Doyle, Jean-Lou Chameau Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Bioengineering, and Richard Murray, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, has developed a set of guidelines for designing biological circuits using tools from mechanical and electrical engineering. Like electric circuits—but made out of cells and living matter—biological circuits show promise in producing pharmaceuticals and biofuels. [Caltech story]
Katie Bouman, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, creates images from nonideal sensor data and mines for information from images using techniques that can be applied to everything from medical imaging to studying the universe. She likes to search for information hidden in images, imperceptible to humans, that she can use to learn about the environment around us. [Profile of new EAS faculty member Professor Bouman]
Professors Chung, Anandkumar, and Yue have teamed up to develop a system that uses a deep neural network to help autonomous drones "learn" how to land more safely and quickly, while gobbling up less power. The system they have created, dubbed the "Neural Lander," is a learning-based controller that tracks the position and speed of the drone, and modifies its landing trajectory and rotor speed accordingly to achieve the smoothest possible landing. The new system could prove crucial to projects currently under development at CAST, including an autonomous medical transport that could land in difficult-to-reach locations (such as a gridlocked traffic). "The importance of being able to land swiftly and smoothly when transporting an injured individual cannot be overstated," says Professor Gharib who is the director of CAST; and one of the lead researchers of the air ambulance project. [Caltech story]
Congratulations to the entire Event Horizon Telescope team, and especially to Dr. Katie Bouman who is joining the Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) Division in June as assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences (CMS). Currently, Caltech and CO Architects are working with her to design and construct a unique laboratory that will facilitate her work in computational imaging. The laboratory is the first of its kind and is designed for her to conduct experimental work in conjunction with her computational approaches – making it possible, for instance, to observe phenomena previously difficult or impossible to measure. The black hole imaging is one spectacular example of how Professor Bouman’s algorithms are advancing our knowledge of the world; she has also developed algorithms that let us “see around corners” and detect material properties (such as stiffness and dampness) via imaging. In her work, Bouman has also developed methods to combine information from both imaging as well as acoustic systems to analyze sub-pixel scale vibrations of otherwise seemingly still objects. As a result, relatively inexpensive cameras, combined with powerful algorithms, are an increasingly attractive alternative to complex and expensive laser-based systems to sense “invisible” attributes of a material. [Caltech story - How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole]
Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues have designed DNA molecules that can carry out reprogrammable computations, for the first time creating so-called algorithmic self-assembly in which the same "hardware" can be configured to run different "software." Although DNA computers have the potential to perform more complex computations than the ones featured in the Nature paper, Professor Winfree cautions that one should not expect them to start replacing the standard silicon microchip computers. That is not the point of this research. "These are rudimentary computations, but they have the power to teach us more about how simple molecular processes like self-assembly can encode information and carry out algorithms. Biology is proof that chemistry is inherently information-based and can store information that can direct algorithmic behavior at the molecular level," he says. [Caltech story]
Professor Yisong Yue is collaborating with Caltech seismologists to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the automated processes that identify earthquake waves and assess the strength, speed, and direction of shaking in real time. Professor Yue explains, “the reasons why AI can be a good tool have to do with scale and complexity coupled with an abundant amount of data. Earthquake monitoring systems generate massive data sets that need to be processed in order to provide useful information to scientists. AI can do that faster and more accurately than humans can, and even find patterns that would otherwise escape the human eye.” [Read the full Q&A]
"Projections with current climate models—for example, of how features such as rainfall extremes will change—still have large uncertainties, and the uncertainties are poorly quantified," says Professor Tapio Schneider, principal investigator of the Climate Modeling Alliance (CliMA). "For cities planning their stormwater management infrastructure to withstand the next 100 years' worth of floods, this is a serious issue; concrete answers about the likely range of climate outcomes are key for planning." The new climate model will be built by a consortium of researchers led by Caltech, in partnership with MIT; the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS); and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. It will use data-assimilation and machine-learning tools to improve itself in real time, harnessing both Earth observations and the nested high-resolution simulations. "The success of computational weather forecasting demonstrates the power of using data to improve the accuracy of computer models; we aim to bring the same successes to climate prediction," says Professor Andrew Stuart. [Caltech story]
Thanks to Professor Pietro Perona and his graduate students including Grant Van Horn and Sara Beery, the next wildlife photo you snap might set you on a path to helping map life on Earth. “The whole web, this huge repository of wonderful information, is indexed by words,” Perona says. “But when we have an image—a visual query—we don’t know what to do unless there is an expert next to us. We’ve gotten so numb to the idea that we’ll never find the answer out.” [Breakthrough story]
A day-long event focused on providing startups and companies with a chance for meaningful interactions with undergraduate and graduate students, providing students with an opportunity to find out more about the breadth of applications for computing and mathematical sciences across industries.
Carver Mead New Adventures Fund
The afternoon featured technical talks from Carver Mead New Adventures Fund recipients, alumni, and Carver Mead himself! Since 2014, this Fund has championed exceptional projects in their earliest stage of development – too early to attract industry or government support. This characteristic embodies Carver’s approaches and practices, with a continued goal to expand Carver’s daring approach to research and innovation throughout the Caltech campus. We highlighted some of the adventurous research that has been explored by grants made possible by this initiative with you.
IST Meeting of the Minds
A day-long research conference featuring talks, laboratory open houses, and poster presentations by distinguished faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and researchers from JPL showcasing the latest and most exciting work that is underway in CMS.