Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Richard Han

Second Advisor

Clayton H. Lewis

Third Advisor

Willem Schreuder


Cyber-Physical Systems consisting of hundreds of thousands of elements are emerging, with even bigger systems likely to emerge in the immediate future. However, in order for emerging and reasonably anticipated systems to be practical, the software control of million-element Cyber-Physical Systems needs to be addressed.

This PhD thesis describes the software control algorithms necessary for the realization of million-element Cyber-Physical Systems. This work will show that Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) based control of such Cyber-Physical Systems provides significant benefits, both in the form of fast control of large numbers of elements, as well as in terms of providing a viable and scalable option by using inexpensive, off-the-shelf hardware. GPU control will be shown to be particularly well suited for the combination of the virtual environment with the manipulation of the physical shape of the environment in which the user resides.

The main contributions of this PhD thesis consist of novel algorithms that utilize existing off-the-shelf GPUs to control the Constrained Motion Cyber-Physical Systems comprised of multi million element systems, and demonstrate the feasibility and scalability of such control algorithms. It will be shown how both control and coordination of the elements can be achieved, while at the same time accounting for the physical limitations of the Cyber-Physical System elements. The approach presented here results in the ability to control the position of the actuation elements in Cyber-Physical Systems, as well as additional physical attributes of the system such as temperature, perceived elasticity of the actuating elements, slipperiness of the ground in large scale systems, etc. We describe how to further extend our approach to deal with existing Cyber-Physical Systems like catoms/Claytronics [1], [2], CirculaFloor [3] and MEMS- based tactile devices, as well as describe an approach to addressing the physical safety of the user in large scale Cyber-Physical Systems.