Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition

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The Atlas robot, built by Boston Dynamics, with software and controls by IHMC Robotics. The walking robot, under its own power and without supporting cables, bested 21 other robots in the DARPA Robotics Challenge in June, 2015.

The Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) is a not-for-profit research institute of the State University System of Florida, with locations in Pensacola and Ocala, Florida.

IHMC scientists and engineers investigate a broad range of topics related to building technological systems aimed at amplifying and extending human cognitive, physical and perceptual capacities. These include artificial intelligence, robotics, human-centered computing, agile and distributed computing and many related areas.[1][2]


Research using electroencephalography (EEG) to evaluate cognitive workload while controlling multiple unmanned aerial vehicles.

1990—IHMC is founded as a research institute by Dr. Kenneth M. Ford and Dr. Alberto Cañas on the campus of the University of West Florida, growing primarily out of the computer science and psychology departments.[3]

2004—The Florida Legislature, under the K-20 Education Code, establishes IHMC as an independent, statewide research institute.[4] IHMC maintains affiliations with several Florida universities.[5]

2007—IHMC is recognized by the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the institute's impact on downtown Pensacola.[6]

2008 — IHMC director becomes chairman of the NASA Advisory Council.

2010—IHMC opens a new research facility in downtown Ocala in central Florida.[7]

2013—A team from IHMC competes in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge, placing first in the Virtual Robotics Challenge and second in the DRC Trials.[8][9]

2014—An IHMC robot sets a new land-speed record for legged robots.[10] Also that year, DARPA awards IHMC scientists a $3 million grant to research Big Mechanisms, using computers to analyze vast amounts of research and identify underlying mechanisms in complex systems.[11]

2015—IHMC's team of robotics scientists place second and is awarded $1 million in the final round of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The competition pitted bipedal robots from 23 teams from around the world on a course that emulated a disaster area where humans could not safely go. The robots had to drive a car, open a door, turn a valve, throw a switch, cut a hole in a wall, walk over rubble and climb stairs.[12] Also this year, IHMC breaks ground on a 30,000-square-foot building in downtown Pensacola, with expanded laboratories, research areas and offices.[13] Also this year, IHMC senior research scientist Jerry Pratt is named to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.[14]

Architectural rendering of new IHMC building in Pensacola, now under construction.

Current research[edit]

IHMC’s human-centered research is focused on the development of technological systems designed to amplify human cognitive, physical, and perceptual abilities.[15][16]

Research areas include biologically-inspired robotics, including humanoids and exoskeletons;[17] human-centered interfaces and displays;[18] artificial intelligence;[19] adjustable autonomy; knowledge modeling and sharing; human-machine teamwork, collaboration and coordination; communication, information management and dissemination in challenging networked environments; software agents; expertise studies; computer and network security; natural language understanding; work-practice simulation; knowledge representation; agile and distributed computing;[20] trust in autonomy; and concept mapping.[21]

IHMC has received research funding from government and private-sector sources, including DARPA,link the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, and other agencies, foundations and companies.[22]

Scientific & Technical (S&T) staff[edit]

The HexRunner robot, which set a world speed record for legged robots.

IHMC is home to more than 100 researchers and technical staff, many of whom are leading figures in their research fields.[23] Six researchers associated with IHMC have been named fellows at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.[24] Four people affiliated with IHMC have been inducted as fellows into the National Academy of Inventors.[25]


IHMC has research facilities at both its Pensacola and Ocala locations.


NASA-IHMC X1 Exoskeleton, designed to help paraplegics walk, and to provide exercise for astronauts.

IHMC sponsors a number of outreach efforts in the local community, including a public Evening Lecture Series in both Pensacola and Ocala. The series has hosted dozens of notable speakers and in 2011 was recognized by STEMflorida Inc., a not-for-profit group that promotes science, technology, engineering and math education. IHMC also supports local education through programs such as its Science Saturdays, I LOVE Science, and robotics open houses and summer camps.[26]

See also[edit]

IHMC's Flow Capacitor allows visualization of cyber attack origins and targets in real time.


  1. ^ "Manning up: IHMC Explores the Intersection of Man and Machine." January 2013. AUVSI Magazine.
  2. ^ Hamilton, Scott. "Thinking Outside the Box at the IHMC". Computer , January 2001. (Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society Press).
  3. ^ Kenneth M. Ford, et al. "Coordinating Behavior of Distributed Systems," AI Magazine, Summer 2010. Also: State University System of Florida, Board of Governors; online publication.
  4. ^ Florida Statute 1004.447.
  5. ^ State University System of Florida, Board of Governors. Online publication.
  6. ^ U.S. Economic Development Administration / U.S. Department of Commerce; online publication.
  7. ^ Barnett, Cynthia. "Human, Machine Research Institute Joins Ocala's Downtown". Florida Trend. Summer 2010.
  8. ^ Davis, Brett. "Robots Open Doors and Drive Cars and Chop Through Walls And..." Unmanned Systems Magazine, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, September 2013. Also: Markoff, John. "Japanese Team Dominates Competition to Create Generation of Rescue Robots". New York Times. Dec. 22, 2013. Also: "Robotics Challenge Teams to Compete for $2 Million Top Prize." AUVSI News. Mar 5, 2015.
  9. ^ "Team IHMC's Lessons Learned from the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials". Journal of Field Robotics. March 2015.
  10. ^ Ackerman, Evan. "This Is What DARPA's Robot Ostrich Will Look Like". IEEE Spectrum. Nov. 14, 2011. Also: "IHMC robot sets world speed record," IHMC website.
  11. ^ “Big Mechanisms Seeks the ‘Whys’ Hidden in Big Data.” DARPA website, Feb. 20, 2014. Also: Cohen, Paul R. “DARPA’s Big Mechanisms Program.” DARPA online publication.
  12. ^ Time Magazine, June 8, 2015. "The Iron Man Challenge." Also, The New York Times, June 6, 2015. Also, DARPA website theroboticschallenge.org.
  13. ^ "IHMC breaks ground on new 30,000-square-foot-building." Pensacola News Journal. (Feb. 9, 2015).
  14. ^ Florida Inventors Hall of Fame web page. http://www.floridainvents.org
  15. ^ "Manning up: IHMC Explores the Intersection of Man and Machine." AUVSI Magazine. January 2013.
  16. ^ You, Jia. "DARPA Sets Out to Automate Research". Science Magazine. January 2015.
  17. ^ "NASA and IHMC Develop Robotic Exoskeleton for Space and Possible Use on Earth". NASA News; online publication. Oct. 11, 2012. Also: "Development of the IHMC Mobility Assist Exoskeleton". IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May, 2009.
  18. ^ Hoffman, R., et al: "The Borg Hypothesis." Computer.org/Intelligent; IEEE Computer Society. September/October 2003.
  19. ^ Kenneth M. Ford, et al. "Coordinating Behavior of Distributed Systems," AI Magazine. Summer 2010. Also: Kenneth M. Ford, Patrick Hayes. "On Computational Wings. Rethinking the Goals of Artificial Intelligence." Scientific American Presents: Machine Intelligence, 1998.
  20. ^ Tortonesi, M., et al. "Multiple UAV Coordinate and Communications in Tactical Edge Networks," IEEE Communications Magazine, Vol 50, Issue 10. October 2012.
  21. ^ Robert R. Hoffman, et al. "A Method for Eliciting, Preserving, and Sharing the Knowledge of Forecasters." Wea. Forecasting. 2006.
  22. ^ Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. "Invited Talk: Human-Agent Teamwork in Cyber Defense". Multiagent System Technologies: 10th German Conference, October 2012.
  23. ^ Kenneth M. Ford, et al. "Coordinating Behavior of Distributed Systems." AI Magazine. Summer 2010. Also: "People / Scientific and Technical". IHMC web page.
  24. ^ Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. The Fellows List. http://www.aaai.org/Awards/fellows-current.php.
  25. ^ National Academy of Inventors. NAI Fellows List. http://www.academyofinventors.org.
  26. ^ National Robotics Week web site; 2015 Events; iRobot Corp. http://www.nationalroboticsweek.org/events.php

Further reading and viewing[edit]

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