Aaron M. Johnson

Aaron M. Johnson with some robots
I am an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering working on legged robots, adaptive controls, contact-rich manipulation, physics based planning, and terrain manipulation as director of the Robomechanics Lab. My postdoc involved developing new manipulation planning algorithms on HERB in the Personal Robotics Lab, part of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. I earned my PhD working on self-manipulation and dynamic behaviors on legged robots (among other things) in Kod*lab, part of the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Before that I was an undergraduate student researching snake robots as part of the Biorobotics Lab, also at Carnegie Mellon University.

My research aims to design intelligent interactions between a robot and its environment. Thus far robots have been most successful in highly controlled environments such as factories designed around the limitations of the robot, or for extremely simple behaviors such as vacuuming flat floors without too many obstacles. But we need robots that are capable of performing useful behaviors in real environments, like our homes and offices, that are cluttered, complex, and changing dynamically. The only way we will ever have robots that can explore the world or help us in our homes is to study this behavior interaction between the robot and the environment. Unfortunately these interactions cannot be controlled directly but rather they can be controlled only through the design of the platform, sensors, and software such that when the robot is run in a given environment, the desired behavioral interaction results.

Quick Links

Robomechanics Lab - Information on my research group.

Perspective Students - Interested in working with me? Find opportunities here.

Locomotion Seminar - Subscribe to the CMU Locomotion Seminar group or look at the calendar.

Recent News

New Class: Robot Design & Experimentation October, 2017

In Spring 2018, I will be teaching a new class called 24-775 Special Topics: Robot Design and Experimentation. This should be a fun class for students, as the majority of the time is dedicated to a student-selected project. The theme this year will be "Bioinspired Robotics", and the class will start with a trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo!

New Lab Website July, 2017

The Robomechanics Lab has a new lab website! This will give us a central place to post pictures and videos, the latest publications and news articles, as well as information for perspective students.

TCS Hall Groundbreaking April 13th, 2017

The Robomechanics Lab was proud to participate in the groundbreaking for the new TCS Hall, named for the generous gift from Tata Consulting Services. PhD student Catherine Pavlov participated in the bricklaying, RHex delivered a brick, and Minitaur entertained the crowds.

Washington Post Article October, 2016

CMU-Silicon Valley professor Vivek Wadhwa and I wrote an article called, "Robots could eventually replace soldiers in warfare. Is that a good thing?" that appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Singularity Hub, among other venues. We discuss the moral implications of autonomous weapons systems and the need for a ban. The article is largely based on my Journal of Military Ethics paper.

Popular Videos

More videos

Robots That Can Go Anywhere

Interview and overview of my current research in the Robomechanics Lab, featuring many of my current students.

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RHex the Parkour Robot

X-RHex Lite running, leaping, and doing backflips around Penn's campus, using behaviors first presented at ICRA 2013, and featured in several videos.

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Tailed Behaviors

A new tail on X-RHex Lite allows it to land on its feet. "Tail assisted dynamic self righting" was first presented at CLAWAR 2012.

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