CORDIS - EU research results

White-Box Self-Programming Mechanisms

Project description

Studying self-programmable AI devices

Manufacturing devices, smart objects, intelligent robots and other applications depend on mechanisms offering forms of programmability and relying on advanced sensing and actuation components. However, the effect of these mechanisms is limited because their logic relies on hard-wired rules encoded in hand-crafted programmes. The EU-funded WhiteMech project will develop the tools for a new generation of white-box self-programming mechanisms capable of automatically tailoring their behaviour to reach desired goals, support themselves with safe boundaries in a changing environment, and follow evolving regulations and conventions over time. WhiteMech bases its scientific results on combining knowledge and insight from autonomous sequential decision making in Artificial Intelligence, programme verification and synthesis in formal methods, and data-aware processes in databases.


We are witnessing an increasing availability of mechanisms that operate in nondeterministic (uncertain) environments and offer some form of programmability. These include manufacturing devices, smart objects and spaces, intelligent robots, dynamic business process management systems, and many others. All these mechanisms are currently being revolutionized by advancements in sensing (vision, language understanding) and actuation components (autonomous mobile manipulators, automated storage and retrieval systems). However, such mechanisms are held back by the fact that their logic is still based on hard-wired rules encoded in hand-crafted programs. WhiteMech aims at developing the science and the tools for a new generation of mechanisms to emerge: mechanisms that are able to program themselves, automatically tailor their behavior so as to achieve desired goals, maintain themselves within safe boundaries in a changing environment, and follow regulations and conventions that evolve over time. Crucially, empowering mechanisms with self-programming carries significant risks and therefore we must be able to balance power with safety. For this reason WhiteMech intends to realize mechanisms that are white-box, that is, whose behavior is at any moment fully analyzable and comprehensible in human terms, and guarded by human oversight. Remarkable recent discoveries by the applicant in Reasoning about Action and Generalized Planning in Artificial Intelligence, and their connections to Verification and Synthesis in Formal Methods, and Data-Aware Processes in Databases, chart an unanticipated novel path to produce a breakthrough in realizing powerful self-programming mechanisms, while keeping them human- comprehensible and safe by design. WhiteMech will ground its scientific results upon three driving applications: smart manufacturing (Industry 4.0) smart spaces (IoT) and business process management systems (BPM).

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 618 996,10
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Oxfordshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 618 996,10

Beneficiaries (2)