Self reconfiguring modular robots developed
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.