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April 30, 2021

Professor Ron Alterovitz received a 2020 Amazon Research Award for his research in cloud-based motion planning for autonomous robots.

The Amazon Research Award provides unrestricted funds and AWS Promotional Credits to academic researchers investigating research topics across a number of disciplines. Each award is intended to support the work of one to two graduate students or postdoctoral students for one year. The 2020 awards, announced in April 2021, recognized 101 recipients from 59 universities and 13 countries.

Alterovitz’s proposal, “Cloud-based motion planning: an enabling technology for next-generation autonomous robots,” seeks to enable robots with low-power embedded computers to perform more complicated motion planning tasks. To work around the limitations of the embedded computer, Alterovitz and his UNC Computational Robotics group split computation tasks between the embedded computer and a high-performance, cloud-based computing service. The robot communicates its configuration, goals, and obstacles to the cloud-based service, and the cloud service returns a motion plan, taking into account the latency and bandwidth of the connection and the time frame necessary to meet the goals. The group’s work with cloud-based motion planning will enable lightweight and battery-operated robots to perform tasks previously limited to bulkier, high-powered devices.

Amazon Research Award recipients have access to more than 200 Amazon public datasets, as well as AWS AI and machine learning services and tools. Recipients also are assigned an Amazon research contact who offers consultation and advice along with opportunities to participate in Amazon events and training sessions. Researchers are encouraged to publish research results and related code under open-source licenses.

For more information about the Amazon Research Awards and a list of all awardees, see the Amazon Science announcement of the awards.