Tech at Polsky
The development of autonomous and efficient agents that can adapt to a variety of environments and perform different functions by reconfiguring their body is one of the frontiers in the field of robotics. There is an increasing need for systems that offer multi-functional, self-assembling, highly compliant capabilities in concert with resilience and robustness.
To this end, while traditional robotic design tends to distinguish and separate components dealing with sensing, actuation, computation, and communication, an alternative strategy distributes components that each integrate these functions.
The faculty inventor introduces the Granulobot, a modular system that blurs the distinction between soft, modular and swarm robotics. The system consists of gear-leak units that each contain a single actuator such that units can self-assemble into larger, granular aggregates using magnetic coupling. These aggregates can reconfigure dynamically and also split up into subsystems that might later recombine.
Aggregates can self-organize into collective states with solid- and liquid-like properties. These states can be perturbed locally via actuators or externally via mechanical feedback from the environment to produce adaptive shape shifting in a decentralized manner generating locomotion strategies adapted to different conditions.
Aggregates can move over obstacles without using external sensors or coordinate to maintain a steady gait over different surfaces without electronic communication among units.
Fully decentralized design
Real-time shape shifting
Ability to switch from stiff to soft behaviors
Robotic systems with more adaptability to the environment
Field exploration in extreme conditions (space, catastrophe management, underground, etc.)
August 4, 2023
Proof of concept
Reference ID 22-T-106
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