Virtual Behavior-Based (or Bottom-Up) Robotics Lab

Josh De Leeuw: Designer & Primary Author
Ken Livingston: Author

An ethologist is a scientist who tries to learn why animals behave as they do by studying them in their natural environments. By careful observations, the ethologist begins to understand events and objects animals notice, and what rules or principles guide the animal’s reactions to those events. This sounds easy enough, but building a theory about the causes of behavior from such observations can be quite difficult. One of the reasons for this is that very simple systems of rules can give rise to surprisingly complicated behavior. Observers sometimes have trouble seeing the simple rules behind the behavior, tending to attribute more complexity than is really there. This same principle is at work in behavior-based robotics, where the rules that govern how a robot behaves are often quite simple. But the final behavior produced by the robot depends on how those rules interact with the environment in which the robot operates. In the robo-ethology exercise you will play the role of the scientist observing behavior and trying to figure out what rules are creating it. This exercise is designed to help you understand one of the most basic ways of making a robot behave in an intelligent way. If you have a real robot, you can find detailed instructions about how to proceed here. But you can still complete the exercise using a virtual robot if you don't have a real one.



Observe the behavior of a mobile robot interacting with its environment. Then, design your own hiearchy of robot-behaviors to replicate the behavior of the "target" robot. In the process you will be introduced to the elegance of "bottom-up" robotics.

Virtual Behavior-Based (or Bottom-Up) Robotics Lab


In addition to our Behavior-Based ("Bottom-Up") Robotics Lab we also have an immersive virtual lab where users build and program a more traditional "Top-Down" robot. We have integrated the two virtual robotics lab ("top-down" and "bottom-up") into a comprehensive curriculum introduction to robotics, focusing on the exciting application of robotics in the field of medicine.

Introduction to Robotics

The Mind Project has developed an introduction to robotics with many interactive elements. The lab focuses on the use of robots in medicine -- including medical research, surgery, hospital navigation and more. Explore this exciting curriculum.

Introduction to Robotics
Virtual "Top-Down" Robotics Lab

Build a mobile robot, write scripts to control the wheels and robotic arms, program that AI engine (a "virtual agent") to care about recycling -- and then put all the pieces together so that the robot recycles an empty Coke bottle.

Virtual Top-Down Robotics Lab

This module was supported by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561.