Raffaello D'Andrea and his colleagues work with machines that mimic human movement, such as small flying vehicles known as a quadrocopter, or quad.
But what makes the quad so innovative isn't just the way it moves, it's the machine's ability to learn and improve its performance.
Using mathematical models to roughly tell them how the quad should control itself, D'Andrea's team writes algorithms, or a sequence of instructions that help the quad figure out how to execute its task.
The quad has control systems that measure its progress, and provide feedback that helps the quad make adjustments while it makes test movements.
The athletes of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will serve as a source of inspiration for D'Andrea and his team. They in turn hope their research will help lay the groundwork for the design of more responsive and agile robotic devices.
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