This article is from the Robotics FAQ, by Kevin Dowling firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
A robot 'architecture' primarily refers to the software and hardware
framework for controlling the robot. A VME board running C code to
turn motors doesn't really constitute an architecture by itself. The
development of code modules and the communication between them begins
to define the architecture.
Robotic systems are complex and tend to be difficult to develop. They
integrate multiple sensors with effectors, have many degrees of
freedom and must reconcile hard real-time systems with systems which
cannot meet real-time deadlines [Jones93]. System developers have
typically relied upon robotic architectures to guide the construction
of robotic devices and for providing computational services (e.g.,
communications, processing, etc.) to subsystems and components. These
architectures, however, have tended thus far to be task and domain
specific and have lacked suitability to a broad range of applications.
For example, an architecture well suited for direct teleoperation
tends not to be amenable for supervisory control or for autonomous
One recent trend in robotic architectures has been a focus on
behavior-based or reactive systems. Behavior based refers to the fact
that these systems exhibit various behaviors, some of which are
emergent [Man92]. These systems are characterized by tight coupling
between sensors and actuators, minimal computation, and a
task-achieving "behavior" problem decomposition.
The other leading architectural trend is typified by a mixture of
asynchronous and synchronous control and data flow. Asychronous
processes are characterized as loosely coupled and event-driven
without strict execution deadlines. Synchronous processes, in
contrast, are tightly coupled, utilize a common clock and demand hard
Arkin, R.C., "Integrating Behavioral, Perceptual, and World Knowledge
in Reactive Navigation", Robotics & Autonomous Systems, 1990
Brooks, R.A., "A Robust Layered Control System for a Mobile Robot",
IEEE Journal of Robotics and Automation, March 1986.
Brooks, R.A., "A Robot that Walks; Emergent Behaviors from a Carefully
Evolved Network", Neural Comutation 1(2) (Summer 1989)
Brooks, Rod, "AI Memo 864: A Robust Layered Control System For a
Mobile Robot". Look in ftp://publications.ai.mit.edu/
Brooks, Rod, "AI Memo 1227: The Behavior Language: User's Guide". look
Connell, J.H., "A Colony Architecture for an Artificial Creature", MIT
Ph. D. Thesis in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, 1989.
Erann Gat, et al, "Behavior Control for Robotic Exploration of
Planetary Surfaces" To be published in IEEE R &A. FTPable.
Insect-based control schemes
Randall D. Beer, Roy E. Ritzmann, and Thomas McKenna, editors,
"Biological Neural Networks in Invertebrate Neuroethology and
Robotics", Academic Press, 1993.
Hillel J. Chiel, et al, "Robustness of a Distributed Neural Network
Controller for Locomotion in a Hexapod Robot," IEEE Transactions on
Robotics and Automation, 8(3):293-303, June, 1992.
Joseph Ayers and Jill Crisman, "Biologically-Based Control of
Omnidirectional Leg Coordination," Proceedings of the 1992 IEEE/RSJ
International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pp.
(i.e., "traditional", "top-down", etc.)
Amidi, O., "Integrated Mobile Robot Control", CMU-RI-TR-90-17,
Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, 1990.
Albus, J.S., McCain, H.G., and Lumia, R., "NASA/NBS Standard Reference
Model for Telerobot Control System Architecture (NASREM)" NIST
Technical Note 1235, NIST, Gaithersburg, MD, July 1987.
Butler, P.L., and Jones, J.P., "A Modular Control Architecture for
Real-Time Synchronous and Asynchronous Systems", Proceedings of SPIE
Fong, T.W., "A Computational Architecture for Semi-autonomous Robotic
Vehicles", AIAA Computing in Aerospace conference, AIAA 93-4508, 1993.
Lin, L., Simmons, R., and Fedor, C., "Experience with a Task Control
Architecture for Mobile Robots", CMU-RI-TR 89-29, Robotics Institute,
Carnegie Mellon University, December 1989.
Schneider, S.A., Ullman, M.A., and Chen, V.W., "ControlShell: A
Real-time Software Framework", Real-Time Innovations, Inc., Sunnyvale,
Stewart, D.B., "Real-Time Software Design and Analysis of
Reconfigurable Multi-Sensor Based Systems", Ph.D. Dissertation, 1994
Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon
University, Pittsburgh. Available online at STEWART_PHD_1994.ps.Z
It's 180+ pages.
Stewart, D.B., M. W. Gertz, and P. K. Khosla, "Software Assembly for
Real-Time Applications Based on a Distributed Shared Memory Model", in
Proc. of the 1994 Complex Systems Engineering Synthesis and Assessment
Technology Workshop (CSESAW '94), Silver Spring, MD, pp. 217-224, July