CRA-W Distinguished Lecture

Sitterson Hall, Lecture Room 011

Friday, November 22, 2002

11:00 a.m. 12:15 p.m.



Randomized Motion Planning:

From Intelligent CAD to Computer Animation to Protein Folding


Nancy Amato

Department of Computer Science

Texas A&M University



ABSTRACT: Motion planning arises in many application domains such as computer animation (digital actors), mixed reality systems and intelligent CAD (virtual prototyping and training), and even computational biology and chemistry (protein folding and drug design). Surprisingly, a single class of planners, called probabilistic roadmap methods (PRMs), have proven effective on problems from all these domains. Strengths of PRMs, in addition to versatility, are simplicity and efficiency, even in high-dimensional configuration spaces.


In this talk, we describe the PRM framework and give an overview of several PRM variants developed in our group. We describe in more detail our work related to virtual prototyping, computer animation, and protein folding. For virtual prototyping, we show that in some cases a hybrid system incorporating both an automatic planner and haptic user input leads to superior results. For computation animation, we describe new PRM-based techniques for planning for deformable objects and for planning sophisticated group behaviors (flocking and herding). We will also describe our recent application of PRMs to protein folding, where, given the native fold, we construct a map of the protein's potential landscape which can be used to study protein folding kinetics. More information regarding our work, including movies, can be found at



BRIEF BIOGRAPHY: Nancy M. Amato is an associate professor of Computer Science at Texas A&M University. She received B.S. and A.B. degrees in Mathematical Sciences and Economics, respectively, from Stanford University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a recipient of a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, and she was an AT&T Bell Laboratories PhD Scholar. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation and of the IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems. She is a member of the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) and she directs the CRA-W's Distributed Mentor Program ( Her main areas of research focus are motion planning, high-performance computing, and computational biology and geometry.



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