0 comments / Posted by Grace Shears

For those of you who have already watched SMILE, you are by now well aware of what and who the Vardies are and what they represent. In the case of those less fortunate, who have not yet seen it, SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

Did you realize that AbbyShot is blessed to be living near Andrew Vardy, a local professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, after whom these swarm robots name and concept were inspired? 

Dr. Andrew Vardy is in the Departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering at MUN.

Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, NL, Canada. Founded 1925. Photographer unknown.

We had the opportunity to speak with Andrew just a few days after the episode aired. We asked him a few questions about his involvement and here is what he had to say.

1. What/who inspired you to research swarm robots?

Photo compliments of The Institute of Engineers Australia (8 September 2016)

I've been interested in swarm robotics ever since doing my Masters at the University of Sussex in the UK. We had a course there called "Animal and Machine Intelligence" which focused a lot on how insects respond to visual cues in their environment. This course has been a huge inspiration to me. We also learned about how groups of animals work together. For my Ph.D. studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, I focused on the problem of how honeybees find their way home using vision and how we could mimic their strategies using robots. I was really focused on the behaviour of individuals for many years, but I returned to the topic of individuals working together in swarms in 2011. I've since developed algorithms for robots allowing them to sort objects and aggregate together more efficiently. I am working now on getting robots to build structures like enclosures and walls.



2. So, if one of the robotics breaks down, does the action then signal another unit to fly into his place and take over?

In swarm robotics, the main idea is that individual robots make decisions that contribute to the overall goal. But they don't need to be fully aware of each other. This allows the system of robots to be flexible because each one can continue the work of another without either being aware of it. The opposite approach is to have one set of robots in charge and sending commands to the others.

3. Now that you know what a TARDIS is, where and when would you time travel?

I'd travel to the early 1970s and see what things were really like when I was a little kid growing up in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland. Maybe I'd then zip over to London and catch a Led Zeppelin concert.

4. Rumors are that this story was born out of Frank Cottrel-Boyce asking scientists what terrified them. What terrifies you?

He didn't ask me that particular question, but we did talk. I worked with Frank on a short story he was writing that brought together a number of interesting ideas from swarm robotics, social appliances, and the frustrations of predicting the future. We've stayed in touch and he asked me last year about my thoughts on the future. In my vision of the future, there are robots everywhere, working peacefully together with us. I think it will be a long time before the robots will be able to act independently and therefore our relationship with robots will be more like that between shepherds and sheep. I see these robots working slowly and gently, to clean, build, and help to maintain our world.

5. Have you ever cosplayed before? Who is your favorite character from Lord of the Rings?

Nope and Gandalf. ;-) 

For more information on Andrew Vardy and his ongoing work with swarm robotics please see the following links:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/mun-prof-dr-who-vardies-1.4079891

https://gazette.mun.ca/research/who-knew/

http://www.mun.ca/engineering/about/people/andrewvardy.php


Written by: Grace Shears

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