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Taming the Swarm: Scalability in Control and Design of Swarm Robotics

Taming the Swarm: Scalability in Control and Design of Swarm Robotics
Michael Rubenstein (Northwestern University)

Advances in technology have begun to allow for the production of large groups, or swarms, of robots; however, there exists a large gap between their current capabilities and those of swarms found in nature or envisioned for future robot swarms.  These deficiencies are the result of two factors, difficulties in algorithmic control of these swarms, and limitations in hardware capabilities of the individuals.  Creating a hardware system for large robotic swarms is an open challenge; cost and manufacturability pressure hardware designs to be simple with minimal capabilities, while algorithm design favors more capable hardware. The robot design must balance these factors to create a simple robot that is, at the same time, capable of performing the desired behaviors.  In this talk, I will discuss the many challenges associated with creating a robot swarm at this scale and the implications this has for creating even larger, more capable swarms in the future.

Michael Rubenstein is currently an assistant professor at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering.  There he is working on Kilobot, a robot designed for testing swarm algorithms in a group of over a thousand robots.  He received his Ph.D. from The University of Southern California's School of Computer Science under the supervision of Wei-Min Shen.  His thesis, titled: "Self-Assembly and Self-Healing for Robotic Collectives", details a control algorithm for a simple, simulated multi-robot system which guarantees that it can self-assemble and self-heal any desired connected shape.  Most of his research is centered around the design and control of multi-robot systems.  Additional information can be found at his webpage: http://users.eecs.northwestern.edu/~mrubenst/