Christopher Amato

Assistant Professor
 College of Computer and Information Science
Northeastern University

camato at ccs dot neu dot edu


Home | Publications | Research | Robot videos | Talks | Teaching | Group | Contact


I am currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University.

I'm looking for talented PhD students interested in AI, machine learning and robotics. If this is you, apply and email me!

Previously, I was Research Scientist (and a Postdoc) at MIT working with Leslie Kaelbling and the Learning and Intelligent Systems group in CSAIL as well as Jon How and the Aerospace Control Lab in LIDS and an Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire. I have a PhD in Computer Science from UMass Amherst, where I was advised by Shlomo Zilberstein. My research interests include Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Multi-Agent and Multi-Robot Systems, Reasoning Under Uncertainty, Game Theory and Machine Learning.

My research explores principled solution methods for systems of agents (e.g., robots, network nodes, sensors, people) with uncertainty and limited communication. As agents are built for more complex environments, engineering solutions by hand becomes very difficult, while methods based on formal models can automatically generate high-quality solutions. Many real-world scenarios have some communication cost, latency or noise (e.g., disaster response, networking, coordination over large distances). Due to these communication limitations, agents that can make decisions on their own are critical. My research seeks to develop fundamental theory as well as scalable algorithms that provide this high-quality autonomy in real-world systems such as multi-robot navigation, search and rescue and surveillance problems.


Press:

Much of my work focuses on robotics, and I'm very interested in using my work for real-world applications. Here are some press articles about my work.

Optimizing communication and behavior for teams of robots:
  • Our work on coordinating teams of robots when there is uncertainty about what the outcomes will be, about sensor information and limited communication along with a demo of our robots optimizing beer delivery was covered by MIT news, betaBoston (the Boston Globe), Popular Science, Engadget, the Huffington Post and several other outlets.
  • Some of my research on using macro-actions (control programs for subproblems) to produce scalable cooperation in multi-agent sytems has been featured as a MIT news story, as well as Government Technology (focusing on search and rescue) and IEEE Spectrum (highlighting our handling of uncertainty which is critical for real world problems).
  • Another story appeared at MIT news on our work on automatically generating macro-actions and coordinating teams or quadrotors for package delivery.
Automated surveillance with security cameras:
  • There are articles about some of my work on balancing time and quality to quickly track and detect security threats at MIT news and Security Info Watch.
Artificial intelligence for computer games:
  • There is a Q&A about some of my work on creating opponents that learn to improve in computer games over at PhaseLeap (no longer available).

Recent and upcoming events:

I'm part of the organizing committee for the first international symposium on multi-robot and multi-agent systems, MRS-17. Considering submitting a paper and going to the conference!

I'm Robotics Track co-chair for AAMAS-17. Considering submitting a paper!

Frans Oliehoek and I wrote a new book: A Concise Introduction to Decentralized POMDPs. Take a look at the Springer site or my pre-print.

I contributed to a great book on decision-making under uncertainty, check it out at the MIT Press website or see my pre-print.

Our RSS paper, Policy Search for Multi-Robot Coordination under Uncertainty, was nominated for the best paper award! It can be downloaded here.

We are organizing a AAAI Fall Symposium on sequential decision-making under uncertainty to bring together researchers working on MDP-based models for single and multi-agent systems. Check out the link for more info.

Our AAMAS paper, Exploiting Separability in Multi-Agent Planning with Continuous-State MDPs, won best paper! It can be downloaded here.

We have a combined tutorial and workshop at AAMAS-14 on Multiagent Sequential Decision Making Under Uncertainty. Check out the website here.

We had a pair of tutorials, one on Self-Interested Decision Making in Sequential Multiagent Settings and one on Cooperative Decision Making in Sequential Multiagent Settings  at AAMAS-13 with Prashant Doshi, Frans Oliehoek, Zinovi Rabinovich, Matthijs Spaan and Stefan Witwicki. You can see the website here.

I co-organized the workshop on Decision Making in Partially Observable, Uncertain Worlds: Exploring Insights from Multiple Communities at IJCAI-11. For more info, check out the website.

Other links:

I maintain the Dec-POMDP page which contains information about the decentralized partially observable Markov decision process (Dec-POMDP) model for describing multiagent decision making under uncertainty. Check it out for an overview, publications, talks and code for various datasets.

While working at Microsoft Research over the summer, I developed a reinforcement learning framework for the video game Civilization IV. You can download it and be able to have the AI learn to improve its play with different RL algorithms. Check it out at the MSR website.