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Merihan Alhafnawi


My research in BRL focuses on expressive swarm robotic systems that are able to enhance human-swarm interaction. Before joining the FARSCOPE program, I studied Computer Engineering at the American University in Cairo, with my thesis project focusing on multi-agent robotic systems for search and rescue applications. I then joined General Electric (GE) for 2 years as part of the Digital Technology Leadership Program, focusing on software engineering and product management projects. Afterwards, I completed my MSc Robotics with Distinction from University of Bristol and UWE. During my MSc dissertation, I developed the “Robotic Canvas”, which is a swarm system composed of 200+ robots that a human can interact with, through 6 modes of interactions, to produce paintings. I then started my PhD, building on this work to explore the expressiveness of swarm systems. A key parameter of human-swarm interaction is the mutual understanding of the state of the interaction between the human and the swarm. Therefore, the idea of “Expressive Swarms” in my PhD research aims at creating a swarm system that communicates its state in an expressive manner that is easily readable by a human operator.

As robot swarms leave the lab and enter our daily lives, it is important that we find ways by which we can effectively communicate with robot swarms, especially ones that contain a high number of robots. In our lab, we are thinking of ways to make swarms for people that are easy and intuitive to interact with. By making robots expressive, we will be able to understand their state and therefore, we will be able to make decisions accordingly. To that extent, we have created a system where humans can build a canvas with robots and create shapes with up to 300 real robots and up to 1000 simulated robots.