Griffs Under 40: Michael W. Lanighan '12

July 18, 2017

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Buffalo, NY - In the 1960s animated series “The Jetsons,” the family had a humanoid robot named Rosie who carried out the household duties. She was fictional but artificial intelligence is real says Michael W. Lanighan. 

A PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Lanighan conducts high tech robotics research aimed at enabling robots to effectively manipulate objects and perform tasks using their senses.

“Belief space planning research allows a robot to reason in terms of the data it receives,” says Lanighan. “Robots that have accurate data will act on it, while robots that may not have accurate data will act more cautiously and gather more information before taking certain actions.”

Lanighan’s current research involves developing robotic systems for healthcare applications, specifically eldercare and prosthetics.  But the robotics research with which he is involved has applications in space, as well. 

Lanighan spent much of 2015 working as an intern for NASA.  Assigned to the Johsnon Space Center, he was an onsite contractor and created software for Robonaut 2.  The humanoid prototype robot was developed by NASA in collaboration with General Motors, and is now aboard the space station. 

“I hope that the technologies I develop will be able to improve the quality of someone’s life some day.”