Prof. Dennis Hong

Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Samueli School of Engineering

University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)

Talk:   AI for Robotics and Robotics for AI


Many are already used to seeing generative AI creating novel and realistic outputs such as images, text, audio, or video. Transformers, such as those used in generative AI models, have shown remarkable results in natural language processing, computer vision, and speech synthesis. But generative AI is not limited to these domains and can also be applied to robotics which require motion and contact in the real physical world. The recent explosion of development in AI is enabling robots to operate in complex and high-dimensional spaces and paving the way for artificial general physical intelligence, the ability of robots to perform any physical task that humans can do. This is starting to change the role of robots from single-purpose robots designed to perform a specific task in a predefined environment, to general-purpose robots capable of learning and performing a wide range of tasks in diverse and dynamic settings. However, AI is not a silver bullet that can solve everything.


In this talk, two very different bipedal robots, BALLU and ARTEMIS, will be introduced as two very interesting examples for two very different approaches (model base vs. learning base) in bipedal locomotion control, and discuss their benefits and limitations including on a more philosophical level. When you have a hammer in your hand everything looks like a nail. What is important is to understand the nature of the problem and use the appropriate tool to solve it. 


Dr. Dennis Hong is a Professor and the Founding Director of RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) of the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department at UCLA. His research focuses on robot locomotion and manipulation, autonomous vehicles and humanoid robots. His work has been featured on numerous national and international media. Washington Post magazine called Dr. Hong “the Leonardo da Vinci of robots.”


Dr. Hong has been named to Popular Science’s 8th annual “Brilliant 10”, “Forward Under 40” by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni Association, and also honored as “Top 40 Under 40” alumni by Purdue University. Hong’s other past awards include the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, the SAE International’s Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, and the ASME Freudenstein / GM Young Investigator Award to name a few.


Dr. Hong received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1994), his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University (1999, 2002).