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While there are many different research questions raised in different theses and projects, there are also some common themes which occur across individual works. Some of them are enumerated here.

(Fast) Autonomous systems in dynamic environments

Robotics is defined by articulated artifacts in physical environments. Research in robotics becomes interesting and challenging if either the robot itself has a large dynamic ability (in other words: it is ‘fast’), or the environment changes quickly and often in an unpredicted way. Designing artifacts which can ‘survive’ in such scenarios and perform meaningful interactions (tasks) are at the core of this topic. Many basic research questions which require systematic and formal approaches are popping up in all those scenarios. Some of them are:

  • How can robustness in control and behavior be created if parts of the system at hand cannot be predicted or modeled? Or: What ‘degree’ of robustness can be achieved in principle?

  • How to identify critical parts of the system?

  • How can graceful degradation features be implemented in complex scenarios?

  • Which form of adaptation of the system to the current environment is the most adequate?

The robotic artifacts at ANU are designed for and experimented in air, on land, and underwater.

Rigid body dynamics and new forms of actuation and sensing

At the roots of robotics, rigid body dynamics modelling constitutes an on-going and well developed research field. Moreover, adequate sensing and actuation in complex kinematics is essential in many areas of robotics today. Actuation which does no longer rely on the fragility of gear-boxes and high-speed force control is one of the promising directions of research in the field.

Swarming artifacts (multi-robot systems)

As swarming becomes a reality or at least a real option for many robotics artifacts today, the systematic treatment of robust, distributed control and reliable, infrastructure-free, many-to-many communication systems are urgently required. While schools of fish, large flocks of birds, and swarming insects demonstrate with intimidating ease that it can be done, we are just at the beginning of understanding the mechanisms behind and the possibilities for robotics designs. Swarms of underwater vehicles and flying artifacts help us along the way of gaining insights into a fascinating world of grace and complexity.

Understanding sensing and behavior in invertebrates

Most of the robotics relevant research in biology at ANU is centred around visual perception of flying insects (specifically honey bees), but also other invertebrates like fiddler crabs are considered. The relations between specific forms of visual (and other) perception to observable navigation and communication behaviors are investigated in detail.