Robot Hackathon

In June this year the universities of York, Manchester and Sheffield hosted a hackathon – a competition designed to collaboratively solve a problem in a particular field. The competing teams were a mix of undergraduates, postgraduates and post-doctoral researchers. The goal of the competition was to produce some code that would allow a single operator to control a group of 5 robots. The TAS functionality node was represented at the event by Dr Sabine Hauert and Dr James Wilson.

Over the three days attendees heard from an expert panel discussing key challenges around swarm robotics, which included Dr Hauert, and helped develop solutions for remotely operating robot swarms, using Pi-puck and MONA robots.  On the final day teams made presentations, with prizes for the best solutions.

The competition involved the robots moving around a small arena and gathering in locations (generated virtually) to score points. The locations themselves were labelled from 1-5, which was the amount of robots you needed gathered there in order to gain points. Most of the devised solutions involved control over a single agent with others following along autonomously, though some groups put together fully autonomous solutions. Some groups were even able to run code on swarms remotely at other universities which was fun!

Thanks to the universities, organisers, hosts and speakers for a brilliant time.



Autonomous vehicle testing using game engines

We’re excited to announce the recent publication by some members of our team, Professor Kerstin Eder and Dr Greg Chance of the Trustworthy Systems Laboratory (, of research into the determinism of game engines used for simulation-based autonomous vehicle verification. These simulations are useful in developing control systems and test environments for the vehicles; but only if they behave deterministically, and therefore yield reliable and repeatable results. Unfortunately, this isn’t a characteristic of game engines and they often produce different outcomes for the same initial conditions. The paper, published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, presents the causes and effects of this non-deterministic behaviour, and sets forth a case study showing the shortcomings of a particular simulator, and a methodology to assess and minimize simulation precision. To read the paper please go here: On Determinism of Game Engines Used for Simulation-Based Autonomous Vehicle Verification