Award for robotics expert

Professor Jan Peters brings first Amazon Research Award to TU Darmstadt


A team from TU Darmstadt has received an Amazon Research Award (ARA) 2021 for its robotics research. It is the first such research award of the US company for the TU.

Professor Jan Peters

For a research project on “Learning Robot Manipulation from Tactile Feedback”, the Autonomous Intelligent Systems group of computer science professor and hessian.AI founding member Jan Peters has been awarded an Amazon Research Awards (ARA) 2021. As announced by the company on 18 July 2022, the team will receive funding of approximately $95,000, as well as access to selected Amazon research infrastructure. The award will support the work of one to two PhD students or postdocs for one year.

Manipulation of mechanical objects is essential for real-world robotic applications from industrial assembly to household robots: robots must, for example, be able to position components precisely or hand over objects carefully. To date, there is no robot that can match the manipulation capabilities of even an unskilled human.

One step closer to complex assembly tasks

To advance the manipulations skills of robotics, the Darmstädter team plans to combine high-fidelity tactile sensing, machine learning and their robust modular grip controllers to learn dexterous manipulation policies. This combination enables advancing the state of the art of robot manipulation and get one step closer to automating complex assembly tasks.

With the help of this Amazon Research Award, Jan Peters and his team aim to advance so-called grip stabilization controllers and augment them with a hierarchical reinforcement learning. The goal for the robot is to pick up an object, re-orient it and insert the object into an opening. The obtained manipulation policies are going to be evaluated on different objects with different shape and weight.

TU Darmstadt is internationally competitive

The Amazon Research Award funds research projects in a variety of research areas relevant to Amazon, including robotics, machine learning, security, sustainability and more. The 74 awardees from the 2021 autumn call, which have now been published, represent 51 universities in 17 countries.

Jan Peters, who also conducts research at the Hessian Centre for Artificial Intelligence (hessian.AI) coordinated by TU Darmstadt, is the first ARA award winner from TU Darmstadt. The fact that his cutting-edge research is internationally competitive is also shown by the fact that TU Darmstadt is the only German university to be represented among the current award winners alongside other globally renowned universities such as ETH Zurich, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Carnegie Mellon University or the University of California, Berkeley.