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AIC Seminar Series

Self-Reconfigurable Robots/Systems and Digital Hormones

Wei-Min ShenISI, University of Southern California[Home Page]

Date:  Thursday, November 14th 2002 at 4:00pm

Location:  EJ228  (Directions)


Self-reconfigurable systems are network of autonomous elements that can alter their physical or logical structures based on feedback of their performance in the environment. Examples of such systems include metamorphic robots that can change their shape and size for the mission and the environment, or distributed sensor networks that can gather and process information in a wide range of areas. Such reconfigurable systems provide a powerful and flexible approach to complex tasks in unstructured and dynamic environments, and they are highly desirable for future applications of computer technologies such as space exploration, search/rescue after disasters, and anti-terrorists operations. Due to their dynamic topology and decentralized configuration, however, self-reconfigurable systems demand control mechanisms that go beyond those used by conventional control mechanisms and software engineering. This presentation describes a novel approach called "digital hormone model" that is inspired by the biological concept of hormones that support adaptive communication, distributed control, online reconfiguration, and collaboration for many autonomous components in a single or multiple robot systems. We will demonstrate the utilities of this approach for controlling locomotion and reconfigurations in CONRO metamorphic robots, and illustrates its potential for self-reconfigurable systems that will be distributed, scalable, robust, adaptive, and self-repair. Just as biological cells, the components in these systems function based on the principle of self-organization, not on fixed roles, identifiers or addresses that must be designated in the conventional computational systems. (This work is jointed with Peter Will and Behnam Salemi.)

   Bio for Wei-Min Shen

Dr. Wei-Min Shen is the Associate Director of USC’s newly established Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems, the Co-Director of ISI’s Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory, and a Research Assistant Professor at University of Southern California in Information Sciences Institute and Computer Science Department. He received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1989 under Professor Herbert Simon. Dr. Shen’s research interests include Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Machine Learning. He has won several research awards in these fields, such as the RoboCup World Championship Award in 1997, and the AAAI Robotics Competition Silver-Medal Award in 1996. He is the author of the book "Autonomous Learning from the Environment." He has chaired several international conferences and workshops in Robotics, Machine Learning, and Data Mining, and served on the editoral boards for two scientific books and one international journal. His work is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, US Air Force, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. His research achievements have been reported by many news media, including CNN, PBS, Discovery channel, LA Times, BYTE, Chinese World Journal, and SCIENCES. More information about him can be found at

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