Bilkent University
Department of Computer Engineering


Programmable robotic self-assemblies: order, functionality and adaptation from the bottom-up


Dr. Utku ulha
Postdoctoral Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

We typically have a clear idea about the final design and functionality of a robot before we start building it. We apply this top-down design approach to a wide range of robotic systems and it allows our robots to be more optimized, autonomous and programmable. However, if we want to design and actuate multiple robots in miniature scales or robots made of continuously deforming materials, this approach sometimes fail to meet our needs. In order to tackle this problem, we adopt another design strategy inspired from nature that manages to create complex morphologies and adaptive functions out of the collective motion of many neighboring, soft, smaller, and simpler elements. In this talk, I will describe how we can use this bottom-up design approach to build and control soft robotic self-assemblies in miniature scales. I will talk about how we can benefit from engineering tools, fundamental laws of physics and emerging machine learning methods to explore the vast design and function search space of self-assembling robots. Our findings can enable novel robotic systems for medical solutions, control strategies for robot swarms and stronger connection with soft matter physics and material science.

Bio: Utku Culha has received his bachelors and masters degrees from Bilkent University, Turkey from the Computer Engineering Department. He started his PhD on Mechanical Engineering in ETH-Zurich, Switzerland with Prof. Fumiya Iida and then moved to the University of Cambridge, UK to help establish the Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory. After completing his PhD, Utku joined the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany and has been working as a Humboldt Postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Metin Sitti since 2016. Utku is interested in creating self-assembling soft robots that can physically adapt to their environment by deforming their body morphologies. During his PhD, Utku has worked on deforming thermoplastic materials for adaptive robotic sensing, locomotion and manipulation. Since joining MPI, he has adopted a bottom-up design strategy inspired by the collective behavior examples in nature to build adaptive soft robots and multi-functional materials for robotic systems.


DATE: 23 December 2019, Monday @ 13:40