Wolfgang Merkt, PhD
My main research interests are in making robots operate smarter, more autonomously and robust, while exposing less complexity. I have previously worked on
- Transferring human demonstrated motion automatically to robots of different morphologies by leveraging topology and machine learning (Bachelor thesis: Human to Humanoid Robot Motion Transfer using Interaction Meshes and Machine Learning),
- Collaborative robots to assist human workers in shared workcells and environments (internship at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA).
- Shared autonomy powered by dense visual mapping and collision-free motion planning to allow robots to operate in real-world environments for longer and recover from unpredictable changes more easily (Master of Science by Research thesis: Dense Visual Mapping and Planning for Robust Autonomy).
I am currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Oxford Robotics Institute, University of Oxford working with Dr. Ioannis Havoutis. I work on efficient, robust formulations for trajectory optimisation and optimal control. A particular focus is to enable online replanning in multi-contact scenarios with high-dimensional systems such as quadrupeds and humanoid robots. My interests hereby are in parallelisation and machine learning to allow algorithms to scale to high-dimensional scenarios and real-world applications.
I obtained my PhD from the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Prof. Sethu Vijayakumar FRSE where I was working working on the Edinburgh-NASA Valkyrie Project and the EU H2020 project Memory of Motion (MEMMO).
I have previously completed a BEng (Hns, 1st Class) in Mechanical Engineering with Management at The University of Edinburgh and The University of Texas at Austin and a MSc by Research in Robotics and Autonomous Systems with Distinction at The University of Edinburgh. I have also completed the Graduate Studies Programme at Singularity University in Silicon Valley.
I have previously worked on industrial robotics applications for small and medium enterprises (co-bots).
At the age of 14, I founded a service robotics research lab in collaboration with the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial robots to develop a kitchen robot, and raised a six digit figure in funding to enable high school students to research and participate in competitions internationally.
As a consultant and former startup founder, I’ve developed and deployed software in government, law enforcement, legal document handling, education, and entertainment with numerous household brands and advise young and quickly growing ventures on consulting and board level.