Our group primarily works with rovers (ground-based robots), and we have obtained several ‘Leo Rovers’ for our experiments. Previously we have also worked with ‘Kilobots’ for conceptual swarm research. As our research develops, we will examine heterogeneous swarms (i.e. different robot types) including e.g. quadruped (4-legged) robots and drones in our swarm deployments.
Trust in Human-Robot Teams
I am Co-Investigator on the £1.2M EPSRC-funded project ‘Satisficing Trust in Human-Robot Teams’, running 2023-26.
Dr Mehdi Sobhani (Senior Research Associate) has joined the Hunt Lab at Bristol to carry out human-robot teaming experiments where we study factors affecting trust, and how that trust can be managed and suitably enhanced.
There’s more information at a blog hosted by the Bristol Digital Futures Institute.
Effective Patrolling Behaviours
We want to deploy teams of robots into real-world environments to monitor activity to ensure anything anomalous can be detected and investigated. In a multi-robot / swarm context, there is a clear opportunity to exploit cooperation between robots to verify anomalous findings by sending follow-up patrols.
There is a class of ‘adversarial patrolling’ algorithms that have already been developed, but not benchmarked robustly so far. We are interested in using technologies such as Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) to control swarms.
We investigate patrolling behaviours in simulation (e.g. ROS ‘Patrol Sim’) before testing controllers on real robots.
Exploring Frontiers in Electrostatics Measurement
Atmospheric electricity is not very well understood – least of all on other planets such as Mars. There are ongoing scientific efforts to understand the influence of electrostatics on weather, as well as their impact on future habitation on Mars.
We are exploring new frontiers in electrostatic measurement by putting sensors on mobile robots, who can plan their collective movement to obtain new insight into electrostatic phenomena.
Evolving Behavioural Plasticity
Based on our understanding of behavioural biology, some animals demonstrate phenotypic plasticity (flexibility) in their behavioural types, for example to be ‘bold’ or ‘shy’ in how they respond to risk.
We are investigating whether and how behavioural plasticity in these fundamental ‘personality types’ can emerge in evolutionary swarm robotics. We are evolving controllers in simulated environments, and then plan to combine this with morphological (shape) plasticity in real robots.
Investigating Functional Heterogeneity and Behavioural Plasticity
Functional heterogeneity – i.e. differences within groups that have an adaptive, functional purpose – is increasingly recognised as important in animal groups. We want to demonstrate this principle in robot swarms.
At the same time, the ability of a swarm to adapt the distribution of behavioural traits will be important in dynamic environments. Connor and Jay are working together to demonstrate these concepts in real robot field trials.
Behavioural Heterogeneity for Enhanced Collective Decision-Making
Making decisions collectively is an important capability for many animal groups, such as ant or honeybee colonies. Bioinspired collective decision-making algorithms have been studied in simulated and real robot swarms.
We are investigating whether and how heterogeneity in behavioural traits will improve collective decision-making in robot swarms, in the context of the distributed patrolling problem and deciding where anomalies have been found.