Self re­con­fig­ur­ing mo­du­lar ro­bots de­vel­oped

Chemical Industry Digest - - Science Pages -

Re­searchers at the Univer­sité li­bre de Brux­elles, Bel­gium, have de­vel­oped self-re­con­fig­ur­ing mo­du­lar ro­bots that can merge, split and even self-heal while re­tain­ing full sen­so­ri­mo­tor con­trol. The study is pub­lished in Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

In most cases the ro­botic ner­vous sys­tems are mapped strictly to the shape of the ro­bot, which lim­its flex­i­bil­ity in their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Adapt­abil­ity could be im­proved us­ing mo­du­lar ro­bots, made up of mul­ti­ple units that can form col­lec­tive bodies.

Marco Dorigo, IRIDIA Lab­o­ra­tory, Brus­sels School of En­gi­neer­ing, and col­leagues de­signed mo­du­lar ro­bots that can adapt their bodies by split­ting and merg- ing to be­come new in­de­pen­dent ro­botic en­ti­ties, au­tonomously choos­ing ap­pro­pri­ate shapes and sizes in re­sponse to the task or en­vi­ron­ment. Their ro­botic ner­vous sys­tems can also split and merge to main­tain sen­so­ri­mo­tor con­trol. These ro­bots can even self-heal by re­mov­ing or re­plac­ing mal­func­tion­ing parts, in­clud­ing a mal­func­tion­ing brain unit. The sys­tem is demon­strated us­ing 10 units. They pro­pose that in the future, ro­bots will no longer be de­signed and built for a par­tic­u­lar task, and sug­gest that their sys­tem could even­tu­ally in­spire the pro­duc­tion of ro­bots that can adapt to chang­ing task re­quire­ments.

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