Kendall Queen has a clear vision of the future, and it includes giving sight to robots.
“If we can create the technology that allows machines to understand the world around them, we can harness the power of robotics to effectively take on the difficult, dangerous or mundane tasks humans do. To get there, the key is computer vision,” says Queen, a doctoral student in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at Penn Engineering.
Queen, who completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a Meyerhoff Scholar, feels his path to Penn Engineering for his master’s and doctoral studies was ordained. “I had met Kostas Daniilidis, the Ruth Yalom Stone Professor of Computer and Information Science, while attending the Ivy Plus Symposium as an undergraduate. He was very supportive about my research interests,” says Queen. “He opened the doors for me to do two research internships at Penn Engineering, and that opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me to pursue my interests in computer vison.”
DEVELOPING DRONES WITH COMPUTER VISION
While Queen grew up in the computer age, he credits a nerdy fascination with sci-fi adventure as the foundation for his interest in robotic vision. “Sci-fi stories were a huge thing for me growing up. But when I saw the Lost in Space movie and saw how a robot interacted with people and the world, that really captured my attention,” he says.
While others are content to enjoy the fictional portrayal of robotics in a futuristic society, Queen is intent on advancing technology so that robots can identify objects and autonomously navigate. His current research interest is integrating drones with event camera technology.
“Our eyes and brain are very efficient when it comes to action. Unlike commercial cameras, event camera technology works similarly to how the human eyes and brain work together to capture essential information about changes in a scene. Once we process that information, we can take action, such as applying the brake when we see a child dart into the street, or duck when a foul ball is hit into the bleachers,” he explains. “We hope that event cameras will provide robots with similar efficiency in capturing visual stimuli for action.”
Queen believes the possibilities for drones with computer vision are endless, from enabling more effective and robust navigation to mapping inhospitable environments deep in the earth or in space.
ENCOURAGING NEXT-GEN SCIENTISTS
To make the integration of drones and event camera technology viable, Queen is counting on the collaborative opportunities available at Penn Engineering. “There are so many intelligent people here at Penn Engineering and I’ve found there’s no limit to the opportunities to share ideas and support each other in forwarding our research,” he says.
Queen also is excited about providing a helping hand and being a role model to future engineers. “I am fully aware of the people who have gone before me to blaze the trial that I am now on. I feel it is my responsibility to do the same, to encourage those in my profession and to mentor younger people who need to be given a glimpse of what is possible through higher education,” he says. “I am standing on the shoulders of giants. My shoulders are just as broad to support the next generation.”