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2nd Swarm-Organ Periodic Meeting
A surprisingly sunny day welcomed the Swarm-Organ researchers to the John Innes Centre premises in Norwich, on the 29th of September 2015. Verônica Grieneisen, head of the Theoretical Biology group at the Computational and Systems Biology Department hosted the research team at the brand new, fully-equipped meeting rooms of the Centrum Building. The Second Periodic Meeting was about to start.
On the first day of the meeting, the focus was on the progress of the project to date, with emphasis on the work performed during the previous 18 months. Although the Swarm-Organ consortium, and fractions of it, meet and communicate quite often, there were lots of new and exciting results to share and discuss. As time passed and the scientists reported their work and findings for each work-package, the feeling of having accomplished the objectives was growing strong. Thanks to the agreement on the standard model to be used, to the cooperative development of a new simulator software that facilitates the researchers’ endeavour and reduces the “reality gap”, and the distributed but coordinated work on different topics, clever solutions were put on the table to address swarm coherence and movement, pattern and shape formation, healing and regeneration, object tracking and herding, gradient detection and interpretation, and response to the environment. Several of these solutions had been tested in real robots, which were previously distributed in small swarms across all participating institutions. After several hours of reviewing new results, the scientific discussion continued over a nice dinner in downtown Norwich.
The programme for the second day focused on plans, ideas, and future work. It started with an eye-opening and inspirational talk by Stan Maree (Project Leader at JIC and Swarm-Organ collaborator, he talked about “Computing an Organism: the slime mould model”). Then, the consortium received with interest the expert feedback from its Scientific Advisor, Stéphane Doncieux (ISIR - Institut des Systèmes Intelligents et de Robotique, Paris), who produced a list of recommendations for the continuation of the project. Full of motivation and good advice, the team discussed and agreed the models to be combined and demonstrated in the robotic platform (thus reaching the second milestone of the project), and also on the next practical steps to achieve all expected outcomes. The rest of the day was dedicated to make concrete plans for the next 11 months (addressing each of the remaining deliverables), but also to brainstorm on more creative opportunities.
With a clear vision of the enthusiastic researchers for the forthcoming months, the meeting was closed in a still sunny and pleasant afternoon after taking some family pictures.