Saturday, November 20, 2004

self configurable robotics

fresh on the heels of near near future pointing to a new scientist article on the ATRON "shape shifting" robot comes a worldchanging post on similar work being done at xerox parc on modular robotics (with demonstration videos).

Modular Reconfigurable Robotics is an approach to building robots for various complex tasks. Instead of designing a new and different mechanical robot for each task, you just build many copies of one simple module. The module can't do much by itself, but when you connect many of them together you get a system that can do complicated things. In fact, a modular robot can even reconfigure itself -- change its shape by moving its modules around -- to meet the demands of different tasks or different working environments.

This project addresses the question "What are the limitations on the number of modules for a useful modular reconfigurable robotic system? " How does the number of modules affect:

• Versatility (different shapes)
• Robustness (self-repair and redundancy)
• Cost (economies of scale?)
Automatic self-reconfiguration allows a robot to radically adapt to changes in the environment. For instance, in this simulation made in 1994, a robot changes three times for three different types of terrain.

i fully expect stephen wolfram to write a book claiming to have invented this in 20 years.


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