The Existential Robotics Laboratory (ERL) is part of the Contextual Robotics Institute (CRI) at University of California, San Diego (UCSD).


Our goal is to move away from the task-oriented view of robotics in which one specific robot performs one specific task in one specific environment for a short duration and create robots that have skills, experience, and generalization ability to exist in the real, unstructured, and dynamically changing world. An existential robot needs rich understanding of its surroundings, curiosity to acquire new information or reduce uncertainty, and ability to co-exist, learn from, and teach other robots and humans. Our work, hence, focuses on the following fundamental scientific challenges:

  • Develop multi-modal environment representations that unify metric, semantic, and temporal reasoning to reduce the gap between robot and human perception capabilities.
  • Develop algorithms for autonomous information acquisition that enable robots to explore their environment and reduce uncertainty in their representation, leading to adaptive and resilient autonomous behavior in unknown or changing environments.
  • Establish principles for distributed intelligence that allow collaborative inference and decision making in heterogeneous robot teams.
We believe that enabling these capabilites will have tremendous impact on the safety, resilience, efficiency and versatility of autonomous robot systems and their utility in transportation, disaster response, environmental monitoring, agriculture, mining, construction, and security.



Apr '19
ERL participated in the Southern California Robotics Symposium 2019.
Nov '18
ERL participated in the Contextual Robotics Forum 2018.
Oct '18
ERL was awarded a NSF grant to pursue environmental mapping and early fire detection using UAVs.
Sep '18
ERL was awarded an ONR grant to develop unified perception-action representations for autonomous robots.
May '18
ERL was awarded a NSF grant to develop navigation-specific environment models and enable safe autonomous navigation in unknown environments.
Feb '18
ERL was awarded an ARL grant to develop contextual perceptual representations and adaptive behaviors for uncertainty mitigation using autonomous robot.
Oct '17
ERL participated in the Contextual Robotics Forum 2017.
Sep '17
ERL participated in the Robotics Frontiers Symposium 2017.
Jul '17
First ERL group meeting!

Research Support

We gratefully acknowledge support from