Lauren Hinkle

Select Projects

SmartCarts: Autonomous Local Transportation

This project uses a 3D-printed autonomous "golf cart" to transport riders from various known locations. We're hoping to get a fleet of these in order to study various problems that arise in request and pick-up scheduling, route-planning, multi-vehicle systems, and human interaction. Initial work done at Mcity included a system in which a user could request a pick-up, the autonomous vehicle would navigate to an arranged location, and then drive the user to their selected destination while providing information about the route and the vehicle's expected actions. You can see a trailer for the segment Daily Planet filmed here! (Full video available on their website for paid subscribers.)

360° Emergency Stop Sensor

Our ground robots need to be able to operate autonomously as well as by human-driver in regions filled wtih both positive and negative obstacles. A lidar, mounted at an angle on top of the robot, sweeps an ovular shape around the robot and tests where it's safe for the robot to drive based on a short history of previous scans. This allows the robot to identify hills and ramps with reasonable grades to drive on but keeps it from turning or backing into stairs or other obstacles.

Affordance Recognition

Unlike most affordance-learning systems, we hypothesized that some types of functionality could be predicted using simulation instead of interaction. We created a simulation using a physics-based model to explore how what types of features can be extracted from a 3D pointcloud of an object using simulated interactions. In particular, we focused on how raining spheres of varying size onto an object and considering the resulting distribution of how they settle. We were able to distinguish such affordances as "sittable", "cup-like", "table-like", etc. Look at my papers for more information.

BOLT - Broad Operational Language Translation

The goal of the Broad Operational Language Translation (BOLT) project, was to ground language in sensory data from the real world using an interactive robotic system. Our system uses a robotic arm, a Kinect for RGBD data, and the SOAR cognitive architecture to learn about its environment through interaction with a mentor. The robot learns relevant object properties by seeing, touching, and moving the object. Interaction with a human mentor helps the robot connect human language to the properties it has discovered. The work focused on the mechanics of getting a physical system working, communication and information sharing between a cognitive architecture and a Bayesian reasoning system, and learning from minimal examples.

Soft-Keyboard Design

Soft-keyboards, those used on phones, tablets, or other touch-screens, have the benefit of being easily modifiable for different languages so that people can type optimally. This research, done at UCCS, explored how optimal keyboards for languages with several times the number of characters as English (including diacritics) can be designed. The work focused on using genetic algorithms for Brahmic scripts, although other optimization techniques and languages were also tested. This work included both theoretic and experimental results obtained with users around the world. Look at my papers for more information.

Neural Net Backgammon

My senior year project at Colorado College was a replication of several papers on TD-Gammon by Gerald Tesauro. TD-Gammon uses Temporal-Difference learning (a type of reinforcement learning) on a neural network to teach a computer to play backgammon by repeatedly playing itself and receiving positive or negative feeback at the end of the game based on whether it won. It was quite the learning experience for me, as I wrote everything from scratch. Ultimately, my version of TD-Gammon was able to regularly beat me. But then I don't claim to be particularly savvy at backgammon.