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Allen School celebrates opening of NVIDIA’s new robotics research lab in Seattle

Allen School director Hank Levy welcomes NVIDIA to Seattle. Credit: NVIDIA

In yet another sign of the Puget Sound region’s emergence as a center of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence research, NVIDIA last week marked the official opening of its new AI Robotics Research Lab just blocks away from the Allen School and University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Led by Allen School professor Dieter Fox, NVIDIA’s new lab in the UW CoMotion building will bring together multidisciplinary teams to focus on the development of next-generation robots that can work safely and effectively alongside humans.

Many UW faculty and students were on hand to toast the new lab, including Allen School director Hank Levy. “I’d just like to say how excited we are to have NVIDIA here in Seattle,” Levy said in remarks welcoming the assembled guests to the lab for the first time. “At this moment, AI is changing the world, and NVIDIA’s hardware is a driving force in that movement.”

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang and a guest get hands-on with a touch-sensitive robot on display in the Seattle lab.

The new lab represents a couple of firsts for NVIDIA — not only is it the company’s first research outpost in Seattle, but it is also the very first NVIDIA research lab focused on robotics. Among the highlights of the 13,000 square-foot space is a working kitchen, complete with drawers, cabinets and appliances, in which the team hopes to whip up new capabilities in human-robot collaboration. “We want to ultimately get a robot that can cook a meal with you,” Fox said, “or that you can just talk to it and tell the robot what you want to do.”

To get there, Fox and his colleagues will need to make progress in a variety of areas, spanning artificial intelligence, robotic manipulation, machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, and more. Noting that the new lab intends to publish its research so that it can be built upon by others — “we aren’t keeping it to ourselves” — Fox emphasized that its work will be a collaborative endeavor through which researchers from NVIDIA, UW, and other leading universities would push the field of robotics forward.

Allen School professors Ed Lazowska (left) and Dieter Fox. Under Fox’s leadership, the new lab intends to collaborate with researchers at UW and other leading universities and publish the results. Credit: NVIDIA

That sentiment was echoed by NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, who emphasized that the culture of collaboration that underpins UW research was also “the perfect culture for creating a robotics platform” in a city that he regards as “one of the greatest hubs of computer science in the world,” thanks to the presence of UW, Microsoft, Amazon, and many others.

“Robotics is going to change the world,” Levy said, “and having an NVIDIA lab this close to UW, started by Allen School professor Dieter Fox, gives us an incredible opportunity to work together to advance the state of the art. We are looking forward to long-term and successful collaborations between this lab, our faculty and students, and other members of the Seattle tech community.”

To learn more, read NVIDIA’s blog post and check out coverage by The Daily, GeekWire, MIT Tech Review, IEEE Spectrum, Robotics & Automation News, The Robot Report, Engadget, Hot Hardware, eTeknix, Neowin, SD Times, and the Puget Sound Business Journal (subscription required).