Red Whittaker Visits Microsoft

Dr. William "Red" Whittaker of CMU visited the research room at Microsoft today to talk a bit about Sandstorm, the robotic Humvee, and the Grand Challenge.  In robotics, there are of two schools of thought in making mobile robots.  There's a top down approach, which is based on building the best maps of the terrain in relation to the robot's position.  This implies the more computing power, the better.  The more sensors, the better.  At the other end, there's a more reactive model where the robot simply senses and reacts and knows nothing about the environment, except what it is currently in contact with.  Red's team is decidedly in the former camp with Sandstorm using GPS, Radar, Lidar and Stereo-optical sensors to plan its movements.  A friend of mine who attended CMU mentioned that Red as a professor seemed a very imposing and intimidating figure -- that "when you're in a room with Red, there's no question who is in control".  I thought this was interesting given the philiosophy of robotics he's known for and had to see for myself.  You know, it's kind of true...

A couple other notes:  Red mentioned that Sandstorm was his 67th robot project.  He also said it's amazing what his team accomplished given a few sponsors and a "children's crusade" of programmers.  Too funny. 

Good luck next year, Red Team.

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