Colloquium Details

Manipulating Wild Bodies Using Gentle Guidance

Speaker: Steven LaValle, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Location: Warren Weaver Hall 1302

Date: April 27, 2012, 11:30 a.m.

Host: Chee Yap


This talk presents our recent methods for achieving basic tasks such as navigation, patrolling, herding, and coverage by exploiting the wild motions of very simple bodies in the environment. Bodies move within regions that are connected by gates that enforce specific rules of passage, leading to a discrete transition system and hybrid system. Each body moves independently and is assumed to be sufficiently wild in that it must eventually strike every open set along the boundary of whatever region it is placed. An example of this property is ergodicity, which arises in the study of dynamical billiards. By developing approaches in this way, common issues such as dynamical system modeling, precise state estimation, and state feedback are avoided. The approach is demonstrated in a series of experiments that manipulate the flow of weasel balls (without the weasels), Hexbug Nano vibrating bugs, and simple differential drive robots. The experiments resemble a macroscale variant of Maxwell's demon, in which the gates enable discrete transitions between regions.

Joint work with Leonardo Bobadilla, Justin Czarnowski, Lars Erickson, Katrina Gossman, Oscar Sanchez, and Vadim Zharnitsky. Support provided by NSF, DARPA, and ARO/MURI.

Speaker Bio:

Steven M. LaValle is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1995. From 1995-1997 he was a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University. From 1997-2001 he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University. His research interests include robotics, sensing, cyber-physical systems, planning algorithms, computational geometry, and control theory. He authored the book Planning Algorithms, Cambridge University Press, 2006 (which is available on line at


Refreshments will be offered starting 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the talk.

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