PLENARY / Keynote / invited Speakers

Plenary speakers

Atsushi Mochizuki 

Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences, Kyoto University 

Controlling cell fate specification system based on network structure 

(June 2nd. Chair: Prof. Shunichi Azuma)

By the success of modern biology we have many examples of large networks which describe regulatory interactions between a large number of genes. On the other hand, we have a limited understanding for the dynamics of molecular activity based on such complex networks. To overcome the problem, we developed Linkage Logic theory by which important aspects of dynamical properties are determined from information of the regulatory linkages alone. The theory assures that i) any long-term dynamical behavior of the whole system can be identified/controlled by a subset of molecules in the network, and that ii) the subset is determined from the regulatory linkage alone as a feedback vertex set (FVS) of the network. We applied the theory to the gene regulatory network for cell differentiation of ascidian embryo, which includes more than 90 genes. From the analysis, dynamical attractors possibly generated by the network should be identified/controlled by only 5 genes, if the information of the network structure is correct. We verified our prediction by combinatorial experiments of knockdown and overexpression by using ascidian embryos. We found that almost all of the expected cell types, six out of seven major tissues, could be induced by experimental manipulations of these 5 genes. 


Atsushi Mochizuki is a Professor at INFRONT (Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences), Kyoto University. He graduated from the Faculty of Sciences, Kyoto University, in 1994, and obtained his PhD in 1999 from Kyushu University. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1998 at Kyushu University, to associate professor in 2002 at National Institute for Basic Biology. He has been a full-PI, Chief Scientist at RIKEN since 2008, and a full professor at Kyoto University since 2018. His researches focus on the mathematical and computational studies on biological phenomena. One of his largest achievements is to establish "Structural Theories" for analyzing dynamics of complex systems from topologies of networks alone. He was awarded 11th JSPS PRIZE (2015) from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and 1st MIMS Mimura Award (2017). 

Gregory Scott Chirikjian 

National University of Singapore and Johns Hopkins University

Robotic Self-Reconfiguration, Self-Repair, and Self-Replication 

(June 3rd. Chair: Prof.Julien Bourgeois)

In this talk, the three related topics of robotic self-reconfiguration, self-repair, and self-replication are discussed. This will include a review of past works by many authors, and future directions. Current work on multi-robot team diagnosis and information fusion will also be discussed. This leads to probabilistic formulations of the health of a robotic team, involving sensor uncertainties and calibration issues. In order to quantify the robustness of self-replicating robots, measures of the degree of environmental uncertainty that they can handle need to be computed. The entropy of the set of all possible arrangements (or configurations) of spare parts in the environment is one example of such a measure and has led us to study problems at the foundations of statistical mechanics and information theory. The use of robots to harvest resources in outer space to the benefit of humanity will require robust autonomous teams that can handle uncertainty, and function reliably while using in situ resources to repair and reproduce.


Gregory S. Chirikjian received undergraduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University in 1988, and a Ph.D. degree from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, in 1992. Since 1992, he has served on the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, attaining the rank of full professor in 2001. Additionally, from 2004-2007, he served as department chair. Starting in January 2019, he moved the National University of Singapore, where he is serving as Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Chirikjian’s research interests include robotics, applications of group theory in a variety of engineering disciplines, and the mechanics of biological macromolecules. He is a 1993 National Science Foundation Young  Investigator, a 1994 Presidential Faculty Fellow, and a 1996 recipient of the ASME Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal. In 2008, Chirikjian became a fellow of the ASME, and in 2010, he became a fellow of the IEEE. From 2014-15, he served as a program director for the National Robotics Initiative, which included responsibilities in the Robust Intelligence cluster in the Information and Intelligent Systems Division of CISE at NSF. Chirikjian is the author of more than 250 journal and conference papers and the primary author of three books, including Engineering Applications of Noncommutative Harmonic Analysis (2001) and Stochastic Models, Information Theory, and Lie Groups, Vols. 1+2. (2009, 2011). In 2016, an expanded edition of his 2001 book was published as a Dover book under a new title, Harmonic Analysis for Engineers and Applied Scientists.

Auke Jan Ijspeert

EPFL (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland)  

Investigating animal locomotion using biorobots

(June 4th. Chair: Prof. Poramate Manoonpong)

The ability to efficiently move in complex environments is a fundamental property both for animals and for robots, and the problem of locomotion and movement control is an area in which neuroscience, biomechanics, and robotics can fruitfully interact. In this talk, I will present how biorobots and numerical models can be used to explore the interplay of the four main components underlying animal locomotion, namely central pattern generators (CPGs), reflexes, descending modulation, and the musculoskeletal system. Going from lamprey to human locomotion, I will present a series of models that tend to show that the respective roles of these components have changed during evolution with a dominant role of CPGs in lamprey and salamander locomotion, and a more important role for sensory feedback and descending modulation in human locomotion. I will also present a recent project showing how robotics can provide scientific tools for paleontology. Interesting properties for robot and lower-limb exoskeleton locomotion control will finally be discussed.


Auke Ijspeert is a professor at EPFL (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland), IEEE Fellow, and head of the Biorobotics Laboratory. He has a B.Sc./M.Sc. in physics from the EPFL (1995), and a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh (1999). He has been at EPFL since 2002, where he was first a Swiss National Science Foundation assistant professor, then an associate professor (2009), and since 2016 a full professor. His research interests are at the intersection between robotics and computational neuroscience. He is interested in using numerical simulations and robots to gain a better understanding of animal locomotion and movement control, and in using inspiration from biology to design novel types of robots and locomotion controllers (see for instance Ijspeert et al, Science, Vol. 315. no. 5817, pp. 1416 - 1420, 2007 and Ijspeert, Science Vol. 346, no. 6206, 2014). He is also interested in the control of exoskeletons for lower limbs. With his colleagues, he has received paper awards at ICRA2002, CLAWAR2005, IEEE Humanoids 2007, IEEE ROMAN 2014, CLAWAR 2015, and CLAWAR 2019. He is associate editor for Soft Robotics, the International Journal of Humanoid Robotics, and the IEEE Transactions on Medical Robotics and Bionics, and a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science magazine. 

Keynote speaker

Kazuki Tsuji

University of the Ryukyus

Understanding the division of labor in ants by trade theories

(June 4th. Chair: Prof. Marco Dorigo)

Experimental testing of macroeconomic models is usually difficult, but we are attempting to break through this difficulty using ants as a model organism. Some ants form a large, spatially expansive colony where one family has multiple nests (polydomy), while in other ant species each family possesses a single nest (monodomy). Why such variation exists in nature? We compared response to heterogeneous resource distribution between monodomous and polydomous ants. A series of laboratory experiments with nests connected by tubes revealed that nests in a polydomous colony exchange complementary resources and the colony as a whole is physiologically integrated. In marked contrast, the monodomous ant kept the highest performance over five weeks even when only a nutritionally biased food was provided. This suggests that they store a large amount of nutrients in adult bodies that can be used when the outside food availability becomes poorer. The above suggests that polydomous ants and monodomous ants might adopt different strategies to heterogeneity in resource distribution. Polydomy might be a strategy to counter it spatially by extending the area of resource searching (like a global economy), whereas monodomous ants might deal with it temporarily by withstanding resource depressed periods of time (like a closed economy). Second, using polydomus ants, we tested a new hypothesis that nests are not only sharing complementary resources, but each nest tends to specialize in collecting one resource under spatially heterogeneous environments. Furthermore, we studied the rules of decision making of each nest that underlies such specialization of resource utilization and/or task specialization. Namely, we tested the comparative advantage and the absolute advantage models in trade theory.  Finally, I would also like to discuss the communication mechanisms, enabling these "international division of labor”-like behaviors.


Kazuki Tsuji started his science in the sociobiological study of the parthenogenetic ant Pristomyrmex supervised by Yosiaki Ito in Nagoya. Recently he has extended his scientific interest to the general evolutionary and ecological dynamics including community ecology and sociophysiology. After receiving a Ph.D. from Nagoya University in 1989, he did postdoctoral research at the University of Würzburg, where he was supervised by Bert Hölldobler. He was hired for a tenured position at Toyama University in 1995, and in 2001, he moved to the University of the Ryukyus as a professor.

Ming Cao

University of Groningen

Rigidity graph theory for understanding animal and robot formation movements

(June 1st. Chair: Prof. Hyo-Sung Ahn)

Animal formation movements, from bird flocks to fish schools, are enabled by intriguing mechnimsms that utilize local sensing signals to realize global collective motion coordination. The design of formation control strategies for teams of mobile robots can benifit from the better understanding of how animals implement sensing or communication topologies within groups. Along this line of research, rigidity graph theory turns out to be a powerful tool to gain insight into how multi-agent structures become rigid under inter-agent distance or angle constraints. In this talk, I will report recent developments on how such rigidity properties of multi-agent formations may lead to different local and global behaviors when the available types of inter-agent sensing signals change. In particular, I emphasize the importance of formation robustness against sensing noises and correspondingly the effectiveness of estimator-based formation control.


Ming Cao has since 2016 been a professor of networks and robotics with the Engineering and Technology Institute (ENTEG) at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, where he started as an assistant professor in 2008. He received the Bachelor degree in 1999 and the Master degree in 2002 from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, and the Ph.D. degree in 2007 from Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, all in Electrical Engineering. From September 2007 to August 2008, he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA. He worked as a research intern during the summer of 2006 with the Mathematical Sciences Department at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, NY, USA. He is the 2017 and inaugural recipient of the Manfred Thoma medal from the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) and the 2016 recipient of the European Control Award sponsored by the European Control Association (EUCA). He is a Senior Editor for Systems and Control Letters, an Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, and was an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems and IEEE Circuits and Systems Magazine. He is a member of the IFAC Conference Board and a vice chair of the IFAC Technical Committee on Large-Scale Complex Systems. His research interests include autonomous agents and multi-agent systems, complex networks and decision-making processes.  

Toru Miura

Misaki Marine Biological Station, School of Science, The University of Tokyo

Understanding of superorganisms: collective behavior, differentiation and social organization

(June 1st. Chair: Prof. Shigeto Dobata)

In the animal evolution, functions of multicellular individuals have been adaptive, organizing elaborate systems to efficiently survive and reproduce. Among diverse animal lineages, some animals have acquired social/colonial systems in which individuals can differentiate into multiple types with specific morphologies and functions. Eusocial insects and colonial marine animals are representative animals that represent such systems. I have been studying the developmental and physiological mechanisms underlying caste differentiation, especially in termites. In termite societies, multiple types of functional individuals, that is, castes, perform divisions of labors to coordinate social behaviors. Among other castes, the soldier caste is distinctive since it is sterile and exclusively specialized into defensive behavior with largely modified morphological features. In this talk, I will summarize our previous studies focusing on the social systems in termites, including caste differentiation, reproductive division of labor and behavioral regulations. Furthermore, I would like to report recent advances on social systems in marine colonial animals like bryozoans. We are focusing on the developmental and physiological systems of colonial systems in some bryozoan species which produce distinctive phenotypes specialized in defensive tasks like termite soldiers. In this talk, some interesting behavioral and/or reproductive phenomena seen in marine animals will also be introduced. 


Toru Miura is Professor at the Misaki Marine Biological Station, which belongs to School of Science, The University of Tokyo. He got his PhD at The University of Tokyo. His research has been on the developmental mechanisms of phenotype-specific characters underlying the polyphenism in ants, termites and aphids, especially in terms of the alteration of body plan in response to environmental signals. He also tries to understand the evolutionary processes underlying the interaction between ontogeny and environment. He has recently expanded his study to marine animals, in which similar but diverse phenomena are also seen. He has published over 150 scientific papers on these topics.

Invited Speaker

Jan Tommy Gravdahl 

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Modeling and control of underwater snake robots

Invited by the organizers of SWARM OS: Recent Advances in Snake Robots. 

(June 2nd. Chair: Prof. Shuzhi Sam Ge) 

In this talk, I will present how inspiration from nature has led to the development of snake robots. I will present the mathematical models of such robots and look into how certain properties of the model corresponds to the properties of snake movement. The connection between certain parameters of the gait and the forward velocity of the robot will also be discussed. Different control methods for snake robot path following, and the corresponding stability analysis will then be discussed. I will show several of our snake robots, ranging from land based university prototypes to commercial underwater swimming manipulators.


Jan Tommy Gravdahl received the and degrees in Engineering Cybernetics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway, in 1994 and 1998, respectively. He is since 2005 professor at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics, NTNU, where he also served as Head of Department in 2008-09. He has supervised the graduation of 137 MSc and 14 PhD candidates. He has published five books and more than 250 papers in international conferences and journals. In 2000 and again in 2017, he was awarded the IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology Outstanding Paper.

He is since 2017 senior editor of the IFAC journal Mechatronics, where he also served as AE since 2016, and he is since 2020 associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology. He has been on the editorial board and IPC for numerous international conferences.

His current research interests include mathematical modeling and nonlinear control in general, in particular applied to turbomachinery, marine vehicles, spacecraft, robots, and high-precision mechatronic systems.

Satoshi Hirata

Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University

Studying feral horse behavior from the sky

(June 3rd. Chair: Prof. Kazushi Ikeda)


Our research team has been studying feral horses living in northern Portugal since 2015. The population of horses at this research site consists of up to 230 individuals belonging to over 30 different unit groups. We use drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, to observe their behavior from the sky. The horses live in a relatively plain grassland environment and there are few obstacles between the drones in the sky and the horses on the ground, thus it is possible to identify and record all of the individuals in clear visibility. In this talk I will summarize our findings. First, spatial relationships within a unit group of horses showed that the stallion male was most commonly located in the periphery of his group, while females were located in the center. Second, the distance between two horses peaked at around 4 meters, suggesting that a repulsion and attraction force exists between individuals. Third, a mathematical simulation that incorporated attraction and repulsion forces was able to explain our empirical data of inter-individual spatial distributions. Fourth, analyses of spatial relationships at an inter-group level showed the existence of a higher level of social structure, suggesting that feral horses form a multi-level society. Our findings shed new light on the evolution of sociality in the mammalian lineage.


Satoshi Hirata is a Professor at the Wildlife Research Center of Kyoto University. He received his MSc (1998) and PhD (2001) in Biological Science from Kyoto University. Since 1996, he has been conducting research on chimpanzees and other great apes from a comparative cognitive perspective to better understand the evolutionary origins of human behaviour and cognition. In addition to ape cognition research, he launched a new project in 2015 to study feral horses in Serra d’Arga, northern Portugal, to investigate their sociality, group dynamics, and collective behaviors.