Knuth: Developing Robotic Scientists for Space Exploration

The University at Albany (SUNY) has highlighted Knuth’s research in a recent news piece.

UAlbany Professor Kevin Knuth with a robot built from LEGOs. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

UAlbany Professor Kevin Knuth with a robot built from LEGOs. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Kevin Knuth has a laboratory in the physics department of the University at Albany that is filled with LEGOs. The bricks are relatively cheap and can be used to rapidly prototype a robot’s body. Knuth’s robots are being programmed to solve such problems as mapping complex terrain.

At UAlbany Day on Saturday, Oct. 25, he will give a demonstration on Robotics and Robotic Exploration in Life Sciences Room 143 at 10:45 a.m.

More here:

Building instructions for the robot shown in the UAlbany article can be found on

Visit Autonomous Exploration News for information on Knuth’s company Autonomous Exploration Inc.

Posted under exploration, mindstorms, research

This post was written by admin on October 21, 2008

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Intelligent Instruments

Intelligent Robotic Arm

The LEGO Mindstorm NXT robotics system is an excellent testbed for research in machine learning and artificial intelligence. At Knuthlab Robotics at the University at Albany, we are developing intelligent instruments using LEGOs.

Our first instrument is a robotic arm that is designed to locate a characterize a white circle on a black background using the LEGO light sensor. It relies on Bayesian inference, which is implemented using a technique called Nested Sampling, which was developed by John Skilling. This software allows the robot to learn the characteristics of the circle using the light sensor data that it has collected. The real advance here is the inquiry engine, which uses Bayesian adaptive exploration to decide which measurements to take next. It does this by considering all the possible measurements that it could take, and computes the expected gain in information from each possible measurement. It then chooses to take the measurement with the greatest expected information gain. The process then repeats as the robot learns about the circle.

The system is easily generalized to solving other problems, such as exploring rooms, interpreting people’s emotions, and doing real science.

We recently presented our research at the MaxEnt 2007 workshop in Saratoga Springs NY. Below are links to a video of the talk, my slides, and our research paper.

Video: Designing Intelligent Instruments, K.H. Knuth

Slides: Designing Intelligent Instruments, K.H. Knuth

Research Paper:
Knuth K.H., Erner P.M., Frasso S. 2007. Designing intelligent instruments. K.H. Knuth, A. Caticha, J.L. Center, A. Giffin, C.C. Rodriguez (eds.), Bayesian Inference and Maximum Entropy Methods in Science and Engineering, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA, 2007, AIP Conference Proceedings 954, American Institute of Physics, Melville NY, In press.

Posted under intelligence, mindstorms, research

This post was written by admin on August 31, 2008

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Matlab Package for LEGO Mindstorms

I recently received a comment on my post on controlling NXT robots with Matlab that pointed me to the RWTH – Mindstorms NXT Toolbox for MATLABĀ®, which is a public domain Matlab package that enables one to interface with and control LEGO mindstorms.

The RWTH – Mindstorms NXT Toolbox for MATLABĀ® was developed as a student project in the Institute of Imaging and Computer Vision at RWTH Aachen University in Aachen Germany. It provides a Matlab interface with the NXT brick that includes Bluetooth communication, sensor interface and motor interface. It requires a working Matlab license, of course.

The package is very easy to set up. It took me less than ten minutes to successfully test the example programs over Bluetooth.

There are some very nice motor features, such as motor synchronization and speed ramp-up and ramp-down.

I have yet to explore how easy it is to modify or extend the code, but it ought to be a straightforward matter.

The package can be downloaded from

Posted under mindstorms, software

This post was written by admin on August 31, 2008

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