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furbie furbie furbie furbie furbie furbie furbie furbie furbie The Autonomy Lab builds life-like machines. Our goal is to increase the autonomy (i.e. self-control and self-maintenance) of robots and other machines.

There are two main reasons to study autonomous machines:

  1. Scientific: an autonomous machine is a concrete test of hypotheses about mechanisms of intelligent behaviour. We come at this from two directions: a bottom-up approach examining the necessary and sufficient conditions for rational behavior; and a top-down approach realizing and testing models of human and animal intelligence.
  2. Economic: by definition, autonomous machines can do more work than those which require human supervision. Autonomous robots could make society more efficient by enabling new kinds of industry, science and exploration.

The aquisition and management of resources such as energy and space is a fundamental, unavoidable task for all living things. From an ecological perspective, intelligent behaviour can be seen as rational manipulation of resources. This observation underlies our approach to building autonomous systems.

Our research interests include:

  • Highly autonomous, long-lived robots
  • Robot and animal foraging behaviour
  • Large-population multi-robot systems and mitigating spatial interference
  • Minimalist, micro and very low-power robots
  • Biologically-inspired robots
  • Artificial life
  • Robot simulation, programming and research tools
The Lab is directed by Richard Vaughan. Our computer systems are managed by Mani Monajjemi.


  • 2015.1.1: Richard Vaughan was elected to the managing committee of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.
  • 2014.9.1: Welcome new grad students Lingkang Zhang, Jacob Perron and Jack Thomas. Find them via the people page.
  • 2013.11.15: Richard Vaughan will be the program chair of IROS 2017 in Vancouver. Hong Zhang is the General Chair.
  • 2013.11.11: Two of our papers were nominated for prizes at IROS 2013, with Mani Monajjemi's paper "HRI in the sky: Creating and commanding teams of uavs with a vision-mediated gestural interface." winning the "Japan Toy Culture Foundation Novel Technology Paper Award for Amusement Culture" category, and Shokofeh Pourmehr nomimated in the "New Technology Foundation Award for Entertainment Robots and Systems" category. See both papers on our publications page.
  • 2013.5.31: Jens Wawerla will be joining us as a University Research Associate from 1 July 2013. Jens will do basic and applied research on UAVs and long-term autonomy. Thanks to BGC Engineering and NCFRN for funding to make this possible.
  • 2013.2.25: We are proud to be part of the NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network, a partnership between many excellent researchers and companies, led by Greg Dudek of McGill. We meet every spring somewhere in Canada for a week-long field trial.
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