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Rod Grupen

Professor, Manning College of Information and Computer Science
Director, Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics
Affiliated Faculty


Ph.D. Computer Science, University of Utah 1988
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University 1984
B.A. Physics, Franklin and Marshall College 1980
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Washington University 1980


I study integrated robot systems that can interact with the messy and unstructured environments in which humans live and that learn skills and models of the world by exploration. I direct the Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics at UMass where students build component technologies for motion planning, sensor-guided grasping, multi-objective control, learning, hierarchical knowledge representations, and methods for collaborating and communicating with human beings.

These components contribute to integrated autonomous systems. With colleagues in Computer Science, Engineering, and Developmental Psychology we have formulated methods for self-guided exploration, "play," with which robots can aquire task-independent skills and models of the world in which they reside. These models organize perception by providing expectations and they support inference. Moreover, our recent work shows how these models can support optimal planners that select actions to influence distributions of belief over models in partially-observable environments.

Inspired by new possibilities for robots in healthcare, exploration, and emergency response, we have demonstrated this architecture by building autonomous sensor-effector arrays, walking machines, and bimanual manipulation systems. Recently, we have been developing a series of mobile manipulators called uBots as a concept in personal robots. Students in the lab contribute to the design and implementation of these bots and to a increasingly comprehensive code base for autonomous behavior.

Select Publications

Ruiken, D., Cummings, J. P., Savaria, U. R., Sup, F. C., & Grupen, R. A. (2017). ubot-7: A dynamically balancing mobile manipulator with series elastic actuators. In 2017 IEEE-RAS 17th International Conference on Humanoid Robotics (Humanoids) (pp. 676-682). IEEE.
Cummings, J. P., Ruiken, D., Wilkinson, E. L., Lanighan, M. W., Grupen, R. A., & Sup, F. C. (2016). A compact, modular series elastic actuator. Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics, 8(4).
Lanighan, M., Takahashi, T., & Grupen, R. (2018, June). Planning robust manual tasks in hierarchical belief spaces. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling (Vol. 28, pp. 459-467).

Contact Information

A337 Lederle Graduate Research Center (LGRC),
Lab: A307 LGRC