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For the past 20 years there has been an ongoing trend towards increased reliance on active control technology, enabled by the electronics revolution that allowed computers to become small enough to be embedded within everyday products. Today's active products typically consist of a handful of discrete sensors and discrete actuators that are physically wired together to some control electronics.

A rich variety of computational tools and control strategies have been developed for these systems. However, for the most part efforts on active control have focused on systems with many degrees of mechanical freedom, rather than on systems with many different sensing and actuation sites.