About me

Joao is currently a PhD candidate in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His academic trajectory has been multidisciplinary, with the unifying thread of trying to bring service robots into the real, unstructured world - be it by incorporating perception into motion planning or by enabling these robots to leverage human expertise through teleoperation.

His most recent work on planning and perception, done in collaboration with Rizhao Qiu and Yixiao Sun, developed a real-time 3D semantic reconstruction system for distinguishing surfaces that are likely to be infected with pathogens (high-touch surfaces) and incorporated the generated map into an optimal path planner for ultraviolet disinfection. This extended Joao’s previous work on optimal disinfection path planning and showed that incorporating semantic information during planning can improve disinfection coverage by up to 20% under the same time budget.

On the teleoperation realm, his work on the Tele-Robotic Intelligent Nursing Assistant (TRINA) was recently rewarded with a 4th place in the ANA Avatar XPRIZE challenge, showing that intuitive and immersive teleoperation can be achieved without making use of intrusive exoskeleton devices. Joao served as team leader in computer hardware, user experience and haptics, while also laying the groundwork for the robot’s python-package-style infrastructure. This lowered the barrier to entry in programming and controlling complex robotic systems and enabled more effective collaboration with undergradute students on the project. Currently, he is investigating the impact of model calibration and semantic integration methods on semantic confidence estimates for metric-semantic reconstruction - and its downstream impacts on object retrieval to enable future service robots to more effectively interact with novel or dynamically changing environments.


Jun 2023: We’re happy to present both of our papers at the 2nd Workshop Towards Robot Avatars at ICRA 2023! I’m excited to share what we learned during the TRINA’s development - and to hear from other avatar creators about their experiences with this growing technology!

Nov 2022: We’re proud to announce that our robot TRINA was one of only 4 teams that were able to complete all 10 tasks in the ANA Avatar Xprize finals! While we did miss the podium, placing 4th, our robot performed admirably - and was the only exoskeleton-free robot to finish the track!