ShanghAI Lectures 2012: Lecture 4 “Design principles for intelligent systems (part 1)”

18 March 2013

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This is the fourth part of the ShanghAI Lecture series, where Rolf Pfeifer starts introducing a set of “Design Principles” for intelligent systems, as outlined in the book “How the Body Shapes the Way We Think”.

In the first guest lecture, Dario Floreano (EPFL) talks about biologically inspired flying robots, and then Pascal Kaufmann (AI Lab, UZH) gives a short overview of the “Roboy” project.

The ShanghAI Lectures are a videoconference-based lecture series on Embodied Intelligence run by Rolf Pfeifer and organized by me and partners around the world.


Dario Floreano: Bio-inspired Flying Robots
Most autonomous robots operate on the ground, essentially living in 2 dimensions. Taking robots into the 3rd dimension offers new opportunities, such as performing exploration of rough terrain with small and inexpensive devices and gathering aerial information for monitoring, security, search-for-rescue, and mitigation of catastrophic events.

However, there are several novel scientific and technological challenges in perception, control, materials, and morphologies that need to be addressed. In this talk, Dario Floreano presents the long-term vision, approach, and results obtained so far to let robots live in the 3rd dimension. Taking inspiration from nature, he starts by describing how robots could take off the ground by jumping and gliding. He then moves on to autonomous flight in cluttered environments and on the issue of perception and control for small flying systems in indoor environments. This will lead to the next step resulting in outdoor flying robots that can autonomously regulate altitude, steering, and landing using only perceptual cues. He then expands the perspective by describing how multiple robots could fly in swarm formation in outdoor environments and how these achievements could possibly lead to fleets of personal aerial vehicles in the not-so-far future. Finally, he closes the talk by going back indoor with current work on radically new concepts of flying robots that collaborate with teams of terrestrial and climbing robots and of flying robots designed to survive and even exploit collisions. Throughout the talk, Dario Floreano also emphasize bi-directional links between biology as a source of inspiration and robotics as a novel method to explore biological questions.

  • J.-C. Zufferey, A. Beyeler and D. Floreano. Autonomous flight at low altitude using light sensors and little computational power, in International Journal of Micro Air Vehicles, vol. 2, num. 2, p. 107-117, 2010.
  • M. Kovac, M. Schlegel, J.-C. Zufferey and D. Floreano. Steerable Miniature Jumping Robot, in Autonomous Robots, vol. 28, num. 3, p. 295-306, 2010.
  • S. Hauert, J.-C. Zufferey and D. Floreano. Evolved swarming without positioning information: an application in aerial communication relay, in Autonomous Robots, vol. 26, num. 1, p. 21-32, 2009.


Pascal Kaufmann: Roboy

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Nathan Labhart Co-organizing the ShanghAI Lectures since 2009.
Nathan Labhart Co-organizing the ShanghAI Lectures since 2009.

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