July 18th, 2008

Robots: Modular and Reconfigurable Robotics

In today’s episode we focus on modular robotics, or robots assembled out of many smaller modules. Whether all the modules are the same (‘homogeneous’) or of different types (‘heterogeneous’), modular robots can accomplish many different tasks simply by adjusting their configuration. We speak with two experts in the field, Kasper Støy from Denmark and Robert Fitch from Australia.

Kasper Støy

Kasper Støy is an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, famous for his pioneering work with self-reconfiguring modular robots such as the CONRO. Much of Kasper’s work involves the design of algorithms to control the locomotion or self-reconfiguration of modular robots into useful shapes, such as the simulated 747 seen below.

Støy shares his recent experience at the ICRA Contingency Challenge, a competition in which teams have only a few hours to solve an unexpected problem in a planetary environment using only the material they have at hand. To achieve this goal Støy’s team integrated several different types of modular robots, including the ATRON (seen below) homogeneous robot and his latest creation, the Odin heterogeneous robot. Along with some LEGO and a bit of duct tape, Støy’s team managed to put together a system that could potentially be used to complete tasks on Mars. Check out all their videos on the team’s YouTube channel.

Robert Fitch

Our second interview is with Robert Fitch who is a research fellow with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics in Sydney, Australia. Fitch received his PhD in computer science with Daniela Rus from Dartmouth College in 2004 and then held a research position at the National ICT Australia in Sydney. He presents his latest self-reconfiguring robot whose millions of simulated modules can make a large cube robot locomote in any type of environment. By changing its shape on the go, the large cube can ooze around and over obstacles without splitting. To render a system which is scalable in the number of modules, he has been looking at how to control the reconfiguration of his robots in a decentralized manner, possibly using learning techniques to automatically determine the interesting moves to make. Finally Fitch presents the envisioned applications and hardware implementations for his self-reconfigurable modular robots.


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  • Anonymous

    For more in depth information, please visit http://www.roboticsdesign.qc.ca/.

    For many years, robotic architecture was unable to perform in situations where flexibility and versatility were crucial. Most advancements in robotics have been concentrated on programming, visual enhancement technology, and artificial intelligence.

    ANAT technology represents the future of robotic advancement. This technology was invented in 1997 by the founder of Robotics Design Inc., Mr. Charles Khaïrallah M.ing. It is based on an innovative new technology in robotics known as A.N.A.T. (Articulated Nimble Adaptable Trunk). Using this patented technology, you are able to create highly robust and intelligent robots with modular and reconfigurable architectures.

    The main advantages of this invention are the design’s simplicity and robustness, as well as the low cost of manufacturing (only two types of modules need to be mass produced, and any type of robot can be formed from them). Other advantages are its simple design with high modularity and resolution. It is a very dexterous robot and excels at obstacle avoidance in a limited workspace. Its rugged design also allows it to have a high load capacity and is able to move at high speeds with optimized power consumption.

    ANAT technology has had an incredible positive impact on industry productivity, as modularity gives factories the ability to mass produce identical modules which can be configured into different configurations by an assembly line. Each robot can perform specific and different applications, depending on the arrangement of the modules. Using modularity, the cost of manufacturing robots decreases, and fault tolerance is increased. If a module fails, it can easily be replaced without disrupting the rest of the robot, making repair work simple and cheap. By reducing the cost of manufacturing with modularity, manufacturers will be able to create fully automated factories, and will be able to produce goods at a competitive price without moving the factory overseas for cheap labour. Modular robots will be able to replace humans for repetitive tasks, and will be able to perform far more efficiently then humans, which will undoubtedly increase the productivity of countless factories worldwide, and will decrease the cost of the products made in these factories. This will also help move society’s workforce from the industrial era to the modern era, and will allow a workforce that is more concentrated on intellectual work and innovation them on repetitive tasks that require little to no skill.

    In summary, we believe that ANAT technologies represent the future of robotics, and will improve the world we live in, in ways that people have only dared to imagine.

  • Johnny 5

    hmm … this sounds interesting – but so much text … any youtube videos or such that could be embedded here to illustrate what you guys do…?

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • hjohn

    HI check out this new video link http://www.pal-robotics.com/press-media/video#
    This the REEM-H1 series robot developed by Pal Robotics with a modular software which can be adapted easily for every event.Modular Reconfigurable Robotics is an approach to building robots for various complex tasks.