Spotlight on Carolina Osorio, an Innovator We Admire

CarolinaOsorio

Photo Source InnovatorsUnder35.com

Willamette Valley Company was founded on the principal that innovation is truly at its best when it makes our lives better. Sometimes that takes on the form of advancements in the field of medicine or robotics, other times it means making our daily lives more efficient and allowing more time for what is important.

It is this reason that our “Featured Innovator of the Month” is Carolina Osorio, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, who wants to help solve the world’s growing traffic problem.

Traffic Jam

An all too familiar sight for anyone living in the city.

As anyone who has spent any time commuting in a city can attest, gridlocks and traffic jams can waste a large percentage of your day and turn a 20 minute drive into several hours. But did you know this problem could be solved with an algorithm and software? That’s exactly what Ms. Osorio is working to do, an endeavor that is built on her study into the traffic patterns of Lausanne, Switzerland.

She says the problem with most existing traffic light software is that it typically looks at the traffic system as a whole as opposed to a collection of individual drivers. “Most signal-timing software looks at current or historical traffic patterns. It doesn’t take into account how travel might change,”says Osorio. “Usually in practice, when you want to time traffic lights, traditionally it’s been done in a local way. You define one intersection, or maybe a set of intersections along an arterial, and you fine-tune or optimize the traffic lights there.”

This is where Osorio’s software promises to shine.  “What is less done, and is more difficult to do, is when you look at a broader scale, in this case the city of Lausanne, and you want to change signal times at intersections distributed across the entire city, with the objective of trying to improve conditions across the entire city.”

In their applied simulations of this new approach to traffic timing, Carolina Osorio and her team found a decrease in commuting time of 22% compared to standardly-used traffic software. Though Ms. Osorio’s system is not yet implemented in traffic software, one can easily see how it can positively influence cities in the future.

Carolina Osorio has received several honors and accolades for her work, including MIT Technology Review EmTech Colombia TR35 Award (2015), MIT CEE Maseeh Excellence in Teaching Award (2014), National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award (NSF CAREER) (2014), NEC Corporation Fund Award for Research in Computers and Communications MIT (2014-2015), and the National Science Foundation Award, (2013-2016). Furthermore she has been an invited Speaker on “The Road to Future Urban Mobility” at the 2016 National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) EU-US Frontiers of Engineering (EU-US FOE) Symposium.

This dedication to finding solutions to the very real problems that hinder society’s efficiency and mobility is why we have named Carolina Osorio as our “Featured Innovator of the Month.” We can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish in the future!

Note: Carolina Osorio does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is she affiliated with our company.

Sources:

MIT – Traffic Lights: There’s a Better Way

Smithsonian Mag – Better Traffic-Light Timing Will Get You There Faster

MIT Innovators Under 35 – Carolina Osorio

 

photo credit: World Class Traffic Jam: Jersey Turnpike Version via photopin (license)

 

WVCO Featured Innovator of the Month: MIT Professor Julie Shah

Julie Shaw

Image Courtesy of MIT Industrial Liaison Program

“Imagine if robots could be truly collaborative partners, able to anticipate and adapt to the needs of their human teammates. Such robots could greatly extend productivity. That possibility is really exciting to me.” -Julie Shah

Willamette Valley Company was built on the principle of innovation. Throughout the years, our team of forward thinking innovators has produced a range of game changing solutions within  our divisions like PRE-TEC, Willamette Valley Company Railroad Division, POLYQuik Performance Products, and WVCO Wood Products.

This month, our featured innovator is Julie Shah, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and head of the Interactive Robotics Group at MIT.

The Interactive Robotics Group is a robotics research lab committed to developing robots that work in tandem with humans to accomplish what neither can do alone. She is best known for her team’s innovative methods of enabling human-robot collaboration, i.e. Creating robots who can function as colleagues for humans in fields such as disaster response, manufacturing, surgery and space exploration.

“Human interaction isn’t part of the traditional curriculum for training roboticists,” she says in this MIT Technology Review profile. “Our field is always pushing to make our systems more autonomous, and have richer capabilities and intelligence, but in that push we tend to look past the fact that these systems are, and always will be, working in human contexts”.

Here she is describing her work in the robotics field in her own words

Ms. Shah has received international recognition for her work in the robotics field, including an NSF CAREER award in 2014 and in the MIT Technology Review 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2013. She has also been named by MIT Technology Review as one of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35.

Her dedication to creating a more collaborative relationship between humans and robots to achieve greater good makes her our pick for our “Innovator of the Month”.

Sourced By:
This MIT engineering professor is turning robots into ideal colleagues for humans.

interactive.mit.edu

Machines Like Us: Robots and Drones at Work

Spotlight on Robotics Engineer Rodney Brooks

Rodney Brooks

Photo source csail.mit.edu

As a company that strives to explore new ideas, devices and processes, we admire individuals who exemplify the spirit of innovation. This month our featured innovator is Australian Robotics Engineer, author, entrepreneur and MIT Professor, Rodney Brooks.

His TED Speaker bio describes him as one who “studies and engineers robot intelligence, looking for the holy grail of robotics: the AGI, or artificial general intelligence”.

In this famous TED Talk from 2013, Professor Brooks presents the idea that robots can play an essential role in our future as the number of working-age adults drops and the number of retirees increases. Rather than viewing robots as a replacement for people on the job, perhaps we should see them as helpful collaborators, freeing us up to spend time on less mundane and mechanical challenges. Watch below.

Perhaps he is best known for popularizing the actionist approach to robotics, the belief that actions or behaviors are a more appropriate standard in robotics. This approach focuses on robots that possess an ability to to exhibit complex behaviors by gradually correcting its actions via sensory-motor links- in other words- a robot who can figure things out.

He is changing the field of robotics and argues that in order for robots to accomplish everyday tasks in an environment shared by humans, their higher cognitive abilities need to be based on the action and experience with the environment. He was one of the first scientists to give robots the ability to process data on their own. “Over time there’s been a realization that vision, sound-processing, and early language are maybe the keys to how our brain is organized,” he says in this 2002 article.

Rodney Brooks is a founder of iRobot, makers of the popular Roomba vacuum. He now heads Rethink Robotics, whose mission is to apply advanced robotic intelligence to manufacturing and physical labor. “When I look out in the future, I can’t imagine a world, 500 years from now, where we don’t have robots everywhere,” he says.

In 2014, The Robotics Industries Association presented Professor Brooks was honored the Joseph F. Engelberger Award honoring “persons who have contributed outstandingly to the furtherance of the science and practice of robotics”.