Sampling-Based Motion Planning: From Intelligent CAD to Crowd Simulation to Protein Folding

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
6:00 AM to 7:00 AM
POB 2.302
Free and open to the public

Motion planning arises in many application domains such as computer animation (digital actors), mixed reality systems and intelligent CAD (virtual prototyping and training), and even computational biology and chemistry (protein folding and drug design).  Surprisingly, one type of sampling-based planner, the probabilistic roadmap method (PRM), has proven effective on problems from all these domains. In this talk, we describe the PRM framework and give an overview of some PRM variants developed in our group.  We describe in more detail our work related to virtual prototyping, crowd simulation, and protein folding.  For virtual prototyping, we show that in some cases a hybrid system incorporating both an automatic planner and haptic user input leads to superior results.  For crowd simulation, we describe PRM-based techniques for evacuation planning and for evaluating architectural designs.  Finally, we describe our application of sampling-based motion planners to simulate molecular motions, such as protein and RNA folding. More information regarding our work, including movies, can be found at

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Nancy Amato

Regents Professor and Unocal Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
Texas A&M University

Nancy M. Amato is Regents Professor and Unocal Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University where she co-directs the Parasol Lab. Her main areas of research focus are motion planning and robotics, computational biology and geometry, and parallel and distributed computing.  Amato received undergraduate degrees in Mathematical Sciences and Economics from Stanford University, and M.S. and Ph.D.  degrees in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, respectively.  She was an AT&T Bell Laboratories PhD Scholar, received an NSF CAREER Award, is an ACM Distinguished Speaker, and was an IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) Distinguished Lecturer (2006-2007).  Amato was program chair for the 2015 IEEE Intern. Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) and program chair for Robotics: Science and Systems in 2016.  She is a member (elected) of the CRA Board of Directors (2014-2017),  is co-Chair of CRA-W (2014-2017), and was co-chair of the NCWIT Academic Alliance (2009-2011).  Amato received the 2014 CRA Haberman Award, the inaugural NCWIT Harrold/Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award in 2014, the 2013 IEEE HP/Harriet Rigas Award, and a Texas A&M AFS university-level teaching award in 2011.  She is a AAAS Fellow, an ACM Fellow and an IEEE Fellow.