Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why study control?

Walking Robot - An example of nonlinear control
As a sequel to the post "Into to Control - A Researcher Prespective", this post tries to answer why would one want to study control? To answer this question, I want to refer to the picture on the right. The first study (from IEEE Xplore) that attempt to understand and control a walking robot, as shown above, was published in 1977. This study is roughly 40 years old. However, nowadays, we still don't see many robots that have great walking performances.

Even the state of the art technology, walking robot probably performs worse than a six years old child. Don't believe me? Watch this video. Notice how slow the DARPA (yes, DARPA) robot is moving. This shows how immature control technology is. Therefore, there are still a lot of opportunities for great research in this field.

Control theory (notice that I used theory, because they are mostly theory) is a very mathematical field which makes studying it tough. If you have great (undying) passion for math, then this is a good field to be in. Although a lot of the work you do are theory-based, they are usually quite easily translated to real world application. My personal opinion is that working on control is way better than working on pure math. If you happened to be a math undergrad and would like to do grad study, why not switch over to control?

Putting math aside, if you happen to be a control freak, then chances are you will enjoy figure out how to control stuff. You will be mind-blown away by the things people can control using some of the theories that has been developed. Let me redirect you the IEEE Control System Society webpage that shows some of the impact of control technology. I want to emphasize that this is also a good site to look for potential future supervisor since they are quite well-known in the field to be able to make it to such an important report.

I have listed three reasons, for an individual, to decide whether one would like to study control. To end this post, let me post a few control-related videos. Let me know if I missed out any interesting ones!

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