Awareness Summer School 2013

This week I have been in Lucca, Italy, for the Awareness Summer School 2013. I had a dual role at this meeting, I was both invited speaker and mentor. The former entailed delivering a lecture on using immune inspiration to build novel algorithms and robotic systems. The latter, guiding two teams of summer school students in solving an underwater swarm robotics problem. Having found it thoroughly challenging myself, I was intrigued as to what 10 other brains would come up with in creating an algorithm for relay chain formation. A swarm of underwater robots have to configure themselves to form and maintain a communication chain between the water’s surface and an `exploratory’ shoal that searches the sea for some target.

The teams were very creative, and both managed to solve the bulk of the problem in just the week available (which included breaks for keynotes, coffees and lunches). The week culminated in each team giving a sales pitch presentation to industry. One of my teams got very imaginative, and pitched their algorithm as a way of identifying lost submarines beached on the sea bed. The comical edge that gave their presentation was very well received.

Other keynote talks were given by Alan Winfield, Peter Lewis, Rene Doursat and Martin Wirsing, and all offered interesting perspectives on self-awareness in autonomous systems. Alan delivered a very convincing argument that robots operating in a noisy and unpredictable environment cannot be safe (for humans) unless they are self-aware. It was great to see them all again, all had attended the awareness slides meeting in Barcelona last year.

Lucca is a fantastic city. The walls are great, you can try to work off the pizzas and fine wine by running around them. And there is of course, delicious pizza and fine wine.