Project Description


subCULTron aims for achieving long-term autonomy in a learning, self-regulating, self-sustaining underwater society/culture of robots in a high-impact application area: Venice, Italy.

Our heterogeneous system consists of 3 different agent types:

On the sea-ground, artificial mussels are the collective long-term memory of the system, allowing information to stay beyond the runtime of other agents, thus allowing to continue learning from previously learned states. These mussels monitor the natural habitat, including biological agents like algae, bacterial incrustation and fish.

On the water surface, artificial lily pads interface with the human society, delivering energy and information influx from ship traffic or satellite data.

Between those two layers, artificial fish move/monitor/explore the environment and exchange info with the mussels and lily pads. Artificial mussels are novel class of underwater agents.

We aim to push forward the edge of knowledge with novel sensors (electric sense/electro-communication), novel bio-inspired algorithms (underwater hives) and novel energy harvesting in underwater scenarios.

We will improve the world’s record for swarm-size in autonomous collective underwater robotics by almost one order of magnitude.

Our application field is a human- and animal-co-inhabited real-world environment of high impact: Venice canals & lagoon.

These habitats are highly dynamic and structured, expected to be reflected by a spatial self-structuring of our mussel population.

These sub-populations locally perform memetic or cultural learning algorithms on their specific local data. Thus our cultural evolution algorithms will promote sub-culture development, similar to the human society that does the same above the water level in parallel.

Overall, we aim for an artificial society underneath the water-surface to the service of a human society above the water.


Objectives of the project: 

  • Enable emergence and adaptation of the “individual being”
  • Enable emergence and adaptation of the “collective group being”
  • Provide minimum-requirement communication of beings
  • Establishing the “long-term being”
  • Survival through socialization
  • Novel bionic perception principles
  • Increasing public awareness, acceptance & interactions of “smart environments”

aPads:These agents at the surface will provide global cognition, user interaction and energy autonomy for the whole system.


aFish:These highly manouverableagents will provide action and information transfer.


aMussels:These very weakly actuated units will provide long-term spatial coverage.

Special aspects of the project:

  • Engineering for long-term persistence
  • Engineering for heterogeneity
  • Sensing/Anchoring in turbid and turbulent waters
  • Social/Cultural/Group: Collective cognition
  • Long-term learning & adaptation
  • Stability & Robustness