Research Associate in Trustworthy Robot Swarms

Location
United Kingdom
Salary
£33,797 - £38,017
Posted
Dec 17, 2020
Closes
Jan 16, 2021
Ref
156056
Organization Type
University and College
Hours
Full Time
The role

We're looking for a Research Associate to help us engineer trustworthy robot swarms.

Swarms composed of large numbers of robots have the potential to boost productivity, power a low touch economy, and improve quality of life. Applications range from swarms for logistics, for example to automate pop-up warehouses, or manage stocks of small enterprises, to swarms for environmental monitoring. Yet designing swarms is challenging because their behaviour results from many robots reacting to their environment and neighbours, rather than following a central plan. This self-organisation holds the potential for products that are useable out of the box, without expensive planning or infrastructure. Our recent user study showed that there was excitement about the use of swarm technology, if we could make it trustworthy and safe.

The project is open-ended, and will be shaped by interactions with collaborators and stakeholders. As a starting point, the Research Associate is expected to investigate and develop verification techniques for swarm controllers. Building on this, we will explore using artificial evolution (or other machine learning techniques) to automatically design verifiable swarm strategies. Results will be explored in simulation before transfer to our 20 robot testbed for industrial swarm logistics. Other means to make swarms trustworthy will also be explored.

This position is part of the multidisciplinary UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Node in Functionality programme which aims to explore how evolving functionality (adaptation) influences how autonomous systems need to be specified, designed, verified, and regulated in order to be trustworthy. You will be part of a large multidisciplinary team of researchers from ethics, sociology, computer science and engineering working together to develop design-for-trustworthiness techniques and methods applicable to a wide range of autonomous systems, including swarm robots, soft robots and unmanned air vehicles.

The Hauert Lab's main expertise is engineering swarms across scales, from nanoparticles for cancer research to large robot swarms for environmental monitoring. You will be joining a vibrant and supportive community of cross-disciplinary researchers spanning, physics, life sciences, robotics, mechanical engineering and more. Support includes regular one-on-one meetings, weekly swarm lunches, training and teaching opportunities, and encouragements to pursue outreach activities. You will also join the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, one of the largest robotics labs in Europe with state-of-the-art facilities including workshops and dedicated technical support. The BRL houses the new Testbed for Industrial Swarm Logistics, which will be used for this project.

What will I be doing

Over the next 3 years you will:
  • Investigate and develop verification techniques for swarm controllers.
  • Apply machine learning to automatically design robot controllers.
  • Investigate the behaviour of swarm strategies using simulation.
  • Translate results to physical testbeds (existing Industrial Swarm Arena).
  • Work within a multidisciplinary team to develop design-for-trustworthiness techniques and methods for autonomous systems with the ability to evolve in functionality.


You should apply if
  • Have a PhD in Robotics, Engineering, Computer Science, Maths or closely related discipline, or equivalent experience.
  • Have expertise in swarm robotics, multi-robot systems, verification techniques, or machine learning applied to controller design.
  • You are excited about working in a multi-disciplinary team to explore design-for-trustworthiness approaches for autonomous systems.
  • Have the ability to organise your time to meet deadlines and manage competing priorities.Have the ability to write up results from research activity and present these to diverse international audiences through conferences, industry interactions and public engagement.


Further information

For informal enquiries, please contact: Dr. Sabine Hauert, sabine.hauert@bristol.ac.uk

To find out more about what it's like to work in the Faculty of Engineering, and how the Faculty supports people to achieve their potential, please see our staff blog:

https://engineeringincludesme.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/

We welcome applications from all members of our community and are particularly encouraging those from diverse groups, such as members of the LGBT+ and BAME communities, to join us.

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