Robotics lab

The new born robotics lab is part of an ambitious project that aims to create a new teaching and research space in which our bachelor, master, and also doctoral students can find different types of robotic platforms in order to test in embedded systems ideas and concepts developed in different teaching modules. This lab, currently located in the room Hopper at the third floor of the Faculty of Computer Science, aims to offer our students a pragmatic experience in which their software development skills are further enhanced and strengthen by the experience with the dirty and noisy hardware dimension. The lab is still in its early days. Nevertheless, significant steps forward have been made with the financial support of the UNamur University. Moreover, part of the research allowance of the SPW project Doctorat-en-Entreprice (2021-2024), coordinated by Prof. E. Tuci in collaboration with the Belgian enterprise Qualitics (https://www.qualitics.eu/) will be use to further develop the lab resources. The initial plan is to have 20 epuck robots fully equipped with hardware extension, 100 kilobots robots, and the necessary equipment to program and to work with these robots.

Prototype of one of the robots of the robotic choral
Prototype of one of the robots of the robotic choral

In our robotics lab, the naXys funded postdoc Dr. Muhanad Alkilabi is building a robotic choral. This is a collaborative project, created by Prof. Timoteo Carletti, Prof. Elio Tuci and KIKK/TRAKK (https://www.trakk.be/), and developed with a major financial support of the research institute naXys, some financial support from KIKK/TRAKK covering the purchase of the equipment, the logistic and some financial support from the Faculty of Computer Science, and the contribution of the Belgian artists of the collective VOID (https://www.collectivevoid.com/). Dr. Alkilabi, with the support of the Fablab (TRAKK), is currently building 20 small autonomous robots which will move independently in a closed arena. The robots can avoid obstacles with ultrasound sensors, and they can communicate with each other using infrared signals.

Dr Alkilabi (on the left), Dr Tuci (in the ), Prof Carleti (on the right) in the robotics lab with 3 robots of the robotic choral
From left to right: Dr. Alkilabi, Prof. Tuci, Prof. Carleti in the robotics lab with 3 robots of the robotic choral

The idea is to program the robots to form small groups of 3, 4 units that will play together different sound tracks pre-recorded by the artists. The group formation process will be generated by random encounters between the robots during their erratic navigation within the arena. Upon a meeting between robots, each agent can autonomously decide whether to sing, and eventually which track to play in coordination with the current group mates. The continuous random interactions between the 20 robots will generate a self-organised audio and visual experience that we hope will be appreciated by the audience. The artists of the collective VOID will take care of the scenography. The building of the robot choral will terminate of the end of 2021. In the future, when the robots will not be used by the artists, they will be left in our robotics lab, and eventually used by our students for their projects and also by the Computer Science/Science Faculty and by naXys for different outreaching and dissemination activities.

We will be very happy to collaborate and to open the lab space to anyone that wish to contribute in whatever way to the success of this project.