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  Embedded Systems - Embodied Agents  
    Executive summary  

The massive embedding of digital technology like sensors, actuators and microcontrollers in our cars, toys, musical instruments, and the light and sound systems of a dance performance has change the way we design the control of our every day artifacts. The control is implemented by programming the microcontrollers to react to stimuli from the environment with a response that make the artifact function as intended. Examples include an airbag controller of a car, a remote controller for an audio/video device, and a game computer. A number of microcontrollers might be included in a system to obtain the desired functionality.

Furthermore, these specialized devices often has to interface to net based system like the internet, an alarm net or a home net. From a technical point of view a major problem with the design and implementation of these embedded systems is the simultanious evolution of hardware and software. This include the instrumentation of the system with sensors and actuators as the programs interface to the environment and the choice of programming languages, development tools, and runtime platforms. From an observational point of view a major problem is to make an embedded system behave understandable even in situations that have not been delt with explicitely during the design and implementation process.

Research themes
The research themes include traditional software engineering topics like specialized operating systems for small microcontrollers, platform independence through virtual machines on microcontrollers, programming of special purpose sensors and actuators, how can a virtual machines be taylored to the peripheral devices of a particular system, handling of realtime demands, fault tolerance, and power supply.

The research also include themes from Behaviour Based Artificial Inteligence like the concept of autonomous agents and multiagent systems. When an embedded system is considered from an observational point of view the behaviour of the embedded system is described in categories different from the categories used to describe the internal actions of the control program. To bridge this gap between categories the metaphore of an autonomous agent with a “body” of sensors and actuators situated in an environment might be useful during the design phase of embedded systems.

Partnership activities
A large portion of the activities in this area include teaching at all levels. Two courses with the titles “Adaptive Robotics” and “Communicating embedded, and situated agents” are given at Master and PhD level.

Lab facilities
One lab has been established to provide facilities for the teaching and reasearch in embedded systems: The LEGO Lab.

The LEGO Lab is a laboratory for teaching and research in multiagent systems based on simple robot technology such as the LEGO MindStorms RCX microcontroller. The aim is to investigate massive use of simple robot technology in multiagent systems for entertainment and artistic expression in physical installations. The aim is also to investigate the usage of LEGO robotics for teaching at a wide range of levels.

Scientific staff

  • Ole Caprani, area manager
  • Jakob Fredslund, PhD student
  • Nis Haller Baggesen, PhD student


  • Rasmus B. Lunding, composer
  • Line Kramhøft, designer
  • Mads Wahlberg, light designer, robot designer


Related projects
Java on the RCX
The Jungle Cube
Steel production plant models
Area Site
LEGO Lab, University of Aarhus
Area Manager
Ole Caprani
Dept. of Computer Science
University of Aarhus
Aabogade 34
DK-8200 Århus N

phone: 8942 5676
fax: 8942 5624
email: ocaprani@daimi.au.dk

   CfPC©, updated: 14-nov-05