Robotics and Intelligent Systems
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New Technologies for Intelligent Systems

At Avian Technologies, we research and develop the use of behaviour-based systems technology for the design of intelligent autonomous systems. The Behaviour-based Systems idea is drawn from the study of simple animals, whose behaviour is largely instinctive (built out of sets of conditioned and innate reflexes), rather than generated by a process of deliberation (reasoning by conscious thought).

Much of what humans and animals do in their lives is driven by instinct rather than by reason. Activities such as walking, running, picking things up and putting them down, avoiding bumping into things, and so on are all performed by sets of coordinated reflexes that act automatically, without requiring our conscious control. Furthermore, Instinctive actions are less complex than deliberative actions, and so can be performed using simpler computational machinery – and this is the reason why the idea is useful. If we can build robots and other machines to be controlled largely by instincts, we can make their computer controls simpler, and hence safer and more dependable. The technology that Avian Technologies uses for this purpose is called Behaviour based Systems.

Behaviour-based systems are built from small computer modules, each of which performs a single instinctive task for the system. By building up layers of instinctive behaviours, one on top of the other, we can develop systems that perform sophisticated tasks reliably. Avian Technologies has developed methods for being able to prove mathematically that the instinctive reflexes of the modules of a behaviour-based system are designed to be safe, and designed correctly so that they don’t have any programming bugs. By applying these methods to the design of behaviour-based systems, we can show that the overall behaviour of such a system, which may be quite sophisticated, is nonetheless dependable. We can do this very quickly and cheaply, and hence save money on all the (expensive) testing that would otherwise be needed to prove the safety of an intelligent control system, especially one constructed using the older deliberative reasoning techniques. Using this technology, we can offer intelligent control systems at competitive costs and delivery timescales.




Images above: Flocking starlings. Colour sorting U-bots at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (www.brl.ac.uk).

Avian Technologies is researching the techniques that will be needed to make this kind of system into real industrial products.

2006 Avian Technologies Ltd.