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PhD studentship in Self-organizing reconfigurable cellular robots created with semantically-aware autonomic elements

Project Description

Machines created by humans are mostly centralized, heterogeneous entities that are designed for a specific purpose and to embody specific components. This is in contrast to nearly all organisms in nature, which have evolved from self-contained elements (cells) and are composed of large groups of specialized cells that together perform complex operations and communicate by pre-arranged ensemble signalling. There are many advantages to the cellular element approach, including resilience to localized damage, accelerated parallel adaptation, and the ability to self-replicate with relative simplicity using the same mechanisms for all elements.

In this research project, the challenges of creating robots or other cyber-physical systems with cellular characteristics are explored. The concept of a self-contained and self-managing "autonomic element" is used as the basis for creating a distributed, fractionated architecture in which large numbers of similar and interconnected components manage their own functions and operation while providing services to other elements in the system in an optimized fashion. Within such a system, autonomic elements should be self-configuring, self-optimizing, self-healing, self-protecting, and self-aware as well as being aware of the context of the system that it is within. As an open, adaptive and context-aware system, this architecture uses semantic contexts for passing information that is interpreted and reasoned on by each element as required so that new functions and data can be added without changes to unrelated elements.

Determining the physical and programmatic form that such an architecture should take is a key part of this project, and innovating on existing approaches to distributed systems theory is necessary to incorporate the adaptivity and resilience required for operation in an uncertain world. Ontological organization with base concepts is used for flexibility, queued lock-free communication with state estimation is used for reliability, and a modular approach to implementation on heterogeneous serially-interconnected microcontrollers can be a physical form. Using this architecture, a complete robotic system can be constructed with enhanced capabilities that arise from the cellular approach.

Funding Notes

Applications are invited for a three-year full-time funded PhD studentship starting in October 2019 in the Department of Electronic Engineering under the supervision of Dr Mark Andrew Post and Professor Andy Tyrrell. This PhD studentship will cover the tuition fee at the UK/EU rate (£4,327 in 2019/20) and a stipend at the standard research council rate for a period of 3 years (£15,009 in 2019/20).

Candidates must have (or expect to obtain) a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2.1) or equivalent in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics or a related subject.

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