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Self-reconfiguring modular robot

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Dylan Liu

on 11 November 2016

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Transcript of Self-reconfiguring modular robot

Company Logo
Self-reconfiguring modular robot
What is SRMR
Modular self-reconfiguring robotic systems or self-reconfigurable modular robots are autonomous kinematic machines with variable morphology. Beyond conventional actuation, sensing and control typically found in fixed-morphology robots, self-reconfiguring robots are also able to deliberately change their own shape by rearranging the connectivity of their parts, in order to adapt to new circumstances, perform new tasks, or recover from damage.

For example, a robot made of such components could assume a worm-like shape to move through a narrow pipe, reassemble into something with spider-like legs to cross uneven terrain, then form a third arbitrary object (like a ball or wheel that can spin itself) to move quickly over a fairly flat terrain; it can also be used for making "fixed" objects, such as walls, shelters, or buildings.

The roots of the concept of modular self-reconfigurable robots can be traced back to the "quick change" end effector and automatic tool changers in computer numerical controlled machining centers in the 1970s. Here, special modules each with a common connection mechanism could be automatically swapped out on the end of a robotic arm. However, taking the basic concept of the common connection mechanism and applying it to the whole robot was introduced by Toshio Fukuda with the CEBOT (short for cellular robot) in the late 1980s.

The early 1990s saw further development from Greg Chirikjian, Mark Yim, Joseph Michael, and Satoshi Murata. Chirikjian, Michael, and Murata developed lattice reconfiguration systems and Yim developed a chain based system. While these researchers started with from a mechanical engineering emphasis, designing and building modules then developing code to program them, the work of Daniela Rus and Wei-min Shen developed hardware but had a greater impact on the programming aspects. They started a trend towards provable or verifiable distributed algorithms for the control of large numbers of modules.

How will it impact society
Audrow Nash interviews John Romanishin from MIT, about his modular robotics project ‘M-Blocks’. M-Blocks are small cubes (5 cm on a side) that have no external actuators, yet they manage to move and even jump. They do this by rotating an internal mass at high speeds then stopping that mass suddenly, which transfers inertia to the cube causing it to move. The rotating mass can change which plane it’s spinning in, allowing the cube to move in any direction. By combining this inertial actuator with permanent magnets, M-Blocks can move over similar robots (or more M-Blocks) and precisely line up. The future of this project is best put by John, who says, “We want hundreds of cubes, scattered randomly across the floor, to be able to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, on demand.”
Greg Chirikjian
Toshio Fukuda
Mark Yim
Satoshi Murata
Daniela Rus
Wei-min Shen
Full transcript