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Towards a Robotic Ecology

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  1. Towards a Robotic Ecology BriefingSeptember 23, 1999 Rodney Brooks Greg Pottie (MIT) (UCLA)

  2. Robot Ecologies Where we are: Single robot that has as its intellectual metaphor a lone animal that perhaps can interact with people. Where we are going now:Swarms of identical robots based on social insect metaphors, perhaps with augmented communication. Where we want to go:Self deploying, and self sustaining ecologies of plant-like robots and animal-like robots that symbiotically interact across many species, in order to carry out complex missions without logistical support.

  3. Rod Brooks, ISAT Greg Pottie, UCLA Dick Urban, DARPA Elana Ethridge, SPC Polly Pook, IS Robotics Sarita Thakoor, JPL David Gerrold, writer Russ Frew, ISAT Al McLaughlin, ISAT Chuck Taylor, UCLA Maja Mataric, USC Brian Wilcox, JPL Paul MacCready, AeroVironment Doug Stetson, JPL, Helen Greiner, IS Robotics, Ian Waitz, MIT Dave Shaver, Lincoln Lab Steve LaFontaine, MIT Steve Leeb, MIT Erik Syvrud, OST John Blitch, DARPA Mark Swinson, DARPA Bob Nowak, DARPA Keith Holcomb, Marines (ret) The Robot Ecologists GUEST PRESENTERS COMMITTEE ITINERANTS

  4. Stay outside of detection circle depends on cross section (self) Within circle want to: sense what is happening maintain long term presence tag things and infiltrate surgically and outfiltrate(!) maintain covertness Stay outside of lethality circle depends on weapons (of opponent) Want numerical advantage Within circle want to: sense what is happening provide targeting information disrupt the opponent’s cohesion and will Warfare in an Asymmetrical Situation The game is changing--we must change our response. ENGAGEMENT SURVEILLANCE detection/lethality circle Logistics chain robots people

  5. Need covert deployment Need occasional mobility Need long term operation energy supply logistics possibly resupply (bio sensors) Need covert information return Robots can move Robots can be very small Robots can carry variety of sensors Robots wait patiently Need rapid deployment Need rapid mobility Need logistics chain Need reliable, rapid information processing and transmission Need active responses Robots can move Robots are expendable Robots can carry a variety of sensors Robots can provide many viewpoints Why Using Robots Is Hard, Yet Good ENGAGEMENT SURVEILLANCE We know where you are and what you are doing.

  6. Solution: The Robot Ecology • Build an ecology of ‘animal’- and ‘plant’-like robots • Go beyond the idea of single mobile robots • Develop the collective as a super-organism where no single part understands the whole • The Robot Ecology • is a self-constructing infrastructure • supports diverse individual tasks and enables more complex missions • handles system degradation gracefully • is self-sustaining throughout mission life

  7. caterpillar (mobile sensor) “seed” sensors mother plant stationary sensor How The Components Combine

  8. What new capabilities? • Precondition the battlefield for timely and precise targeting of enemy assets • Know the environment • scout, search, collect, penetrate, filter, report • Tag enemy assets • reduce fog; trace and target • Weaken enemy infrastructure • disrupt, confuse, attack cohesion and will • Deploy friendly infrastructure • communication, navigation, supplies, weapons • High-quality low-cost real-time intelligence available to small tactical units

  9. Symbiosis Between People and Robots • The robot ecology needs to intermesh with the human organization in a symbiotic relationship • People are better at some things • Robots are better at some things • Robots will be the remote extension of people • Robots must support people rather than force people to support robots • People are freed to make the higher level judgements • in command without having to control • The currencies of the self-sustaining robot ecology are • energy and information • they trade against each other and between themselves • they need to be supplied at the right places and times

  10. Application Scenarios • Remote exploration • Tagging of people/trucks/ships/submarines • Self-deploying communications/power network • Search and rescue • Battlefield surveillance, mine countermeasures • Response to bio/chem attack • Monitoring (infesting) a building • Monitoring remote site for underground facilities (UGF) • Support for military operations in urban terrain (MOUT)

  11. UGF • Threats: missile sites, weapons factories (e.g. biochem), command facilities, storage, weapons research • What needs to be done: covertly characterize the facility (activity and structure) and possibly disrupt it • Task List: monitor input/output of facility (roads, vents, effluent), sense nearby, sense inside, guide weapons, disrupt facility • Steps: locate, infiltrate/disrupt, infestation, gather information; establish logistical chain for communication, sample retrieval and/or facility disruption

  12. Underground Facility Characterization (maybe satellite detect)   UAV follows; releases microflyers, “seeds” pods, creepers, burrs, mobile  communication relay to hill   creeper down air vent;burr placed inside;set up sensor net(vibrations, gases, etc.) burrowing device from mother plant down to buried targets [not to scale]

  13. MOUT • Threats: snipers, suicide bombers, biohazards, traps/mines; complication of neutrals as shields, chaos and confusion • What needs to be done: avoid entering circle of lethality while establishing order and control • Task List: navigation, communication, clearing, securing cleared areas, security in crowded/cluttered areas • Steps: long-range deployment (e.g. to rooftops), local self-deployment, sense assess and reposition cycle, weapons use; diversity and numbers to overcome countermeasures

  14. Military Operations in Urban Terrain Sensors defend secured areas Microflyers “harvest” bio-samples Camouflaged devices for tracking, scanning, extracting bio-samples Creeper/climbers gather indoor /outdoor info; form comm relay Robo-insects gain access inside doors/windows, around corners, not to scale

  15. System issues supported by technologies Why Can’t We Just Do This Today? • There are some key systems challenges • Scaling • 10’s (now) to 100’s and 1000’s • Heterogeneity • Symbiotic relationships of plantbots, mobots, and people • Adaptivity • Context-aware self-organizing systems • Some holes in base technology research areas • Mobility • Self-configuring networks • Sensors • Energy sources • Cooperative behavior

  16. Scaling Heterogeneous Adaptability Mobility Self-configuring networks Sensors Energy sources Cooperative behavior NA 1 1 1 1 0 2 1 2 NA 1 0 1 0 1 Systems Issues Relate to Technologies Each of these systems issues can only be pushed forward with adequate support from the underlying technologies. The technologies have certain levels of development as they relate to the systems issues. Evaluation Scale:0 = no idea 1 = fragile lab demo 2 = solid lab demo 3 = real stuff

  17. Mobility: rolling, boring, swimming, creeping, hatching, flying, walking, climbing, reaching, standing, peering...

  18. Plantbots • Current Examples: • factory robots, sensor networks • Future Examples: • solar net, sensor net, sensor seed, creeper vine, balloon launcher, burr, lure, tumbleweed, bio-station, any sci-fi alien plant form...

  19. Plantbots • Capabilities • Accumulate/convert energy, information, provide shelter (e.g., for short-lived bio-sensors), resupply; no self-locomotion for whole plant • Benefits • Limited mobility (seeds, creepers) can lead to advantage in information or energy collection • Will provide the infrastructure for the mobile ecology components • Challenge: requires extensive new research to devise appropriate forms and interoperation

  20. air drop  spreads over tree  climbs up,establishes newnettwork  climbs down   mobile 'bots crawlon jungle floor sends out networkon ground Communications Self-Deployment not to scale

  21. Sensor State of the Art • Current: • Lots of low-power compact sensors exist • acoustic, magnetic, seismic, pressure, IR, and visible • Other sensors require considerable development to meet reliability/size requirements, e.g. bio/chem • In general, cost dominated by communications and signal processing, rather than the sensor itself • Imaging (IR or visible) costly in signal processing and (especially) communications • Active sensors (e.g. radar) costly in power; require energy support network, cueing by other sensors for sustainability • Future - Systems Approach: • Exploit large numbers of sensors via self-organizing mobile networks

  22. Self Configuring Networks • General-Purpose Networks won’t work: • set-up is labor-intensive, even for military field command posts • can’t be deployed in denied areas • pushing the limits result in high energy/complexity costs • Future Mobile Sensor Networks by contrast • are relaxed in all aspects if processing is done locally • exploitation of application and mobility allows energy-efficient and scalable design

  23. Benefits of Mobile Sensor Networks • Current: static distributed sensor net • provides dense data gathering • but, taxes information management through large numbers • Small motion can dramatically improve detection and communication • e.g., maximize field of view, line-of-sight, form synthetic apertures • with better signal need many fewer elements • Larger motion enables dynamic network deployment • repair network failures, • track and investigate threats beyond initial region of sensors • extend or change detection region

  24. Energy Generation/Extraction/Distribution • Many methods 1. battery exchange 2. wires (incl. telephone and power grid) 3. solar 4. wind/water/waves 5. beaming (incl. concentrator mirrors) 6. hydrocarbon/fuel cells 7. convoys/depot system 8. animals (burrs and lures) 9. vehicles (burrs; exploit vibrations)10. hybrid, e.g., both capacitors and batteries for high currents • Research required into how to best combine methods for particular systems and missions

  25. micro-flyer moves battery  plugs in  creeper comes out Energy Conversion / Sustainment

  26. Future Energy Management • Sustainment through ecology • Design of energy system has large impact on sustainability; e.g. plantbot energy network for energy accumulation and distribution • Efficient use through distributed information • Network provides global information to minimize energy waste • navigation assistance, actuation/mobility avoidance, resource discovery and management, exploitation of heterogeneity of ability/location

  27. Cooperation: The Lessons of Ants • Specialization and castes enable range of tasks to be performed • Cooperative behaviors enlarge the set of tasks • Main benefits of colonies however are: • parallelism of tasks • collective reliability with individual unreliability • Ants apply distributed algorithms for collective control • Much more research is needed to enable robot colonies to get these kinds of benefits

  28. networking, competing, cooperating, distributing, sweeping... Current cooperative robots are mostly homogeneous, and never more than 20 robots

  29. Robot Cooperation Challenges • Centralized systems are brittle and require excessive communications resources. • Must identify effective heuristics for distributed coordination • Communications and energy network self-organization cannot be general purpose • Cooperation must be pursued in applications context • Lack of operational data • Field tests to discover the needed behaviors for particular missions, and integrate human operators and larger military/industrial infrastructure • Lack of general theory of cooperation • With a better understanding, can reduce number of experiments

  30. Robot Ecology Today & Tomorrow • Today: • Factory automation: • adjust environment for convenience of robots • Battlefield: • unpredictable environment and no infrastructure, and thus many people to sustain each robot • Tomorrow: • Scaling • More than 20 robots • Heterogenous robots • Diverse sets of robots working together in sustained missions • Adaptivity • Context-aware adaptation among members of the ecology for operation in unplanned environments

  31. A Program Outline • Pick a scenario • The union of all the scenarios lacks focus--build out from one • E.g., installation perimeter security • Can start in a non-covert way, and over time introduce covert aspects • Can be operationally tested in parallel to existing methods • Pursue a set of large scale experiments • More than 20 robots working together • Dynamic deployment • Dynamic task exchange in the case of failures • Heterogeneous robots - including plant and animal robots • Pursue maintenance of energy economy as example of autonomous resupply • Standardized parts and interfaces for plug and play with large community • Integrate situation assessment with autonomous tagging and dynamic networking • Pursue mathematical understanding of the systems level in order to get the right language to analyze how to generalize