Mergeable nervous systems for robots

September 13, 2017, Université libre de Bruxelles
Self-reconfiguring modular robots scheme. Credit: Iridia Lab ULB

Researchers at the Université libre de Bruxelles have developed self-reconfiguring modular robots that can merge, split and even self-heal while retaining full sensorimotor control. The work envisions robots that can autonomously change their size, shape and function. The study is published in Nature Communications.

Many robots are controlled by robotic nervous systems in which sensors and actuators are connected to a . However, in most cases, the robotic nervous systems are mapped strictly to the shape of the , which limits flexibility in their capabilities. Adaptability could be improved using modular robots made up of multiple units that can form collective bodies, but coordination and control of modular robots are constrained by a limited set of predefined shapes that the units can form into.

Marco Dorigo, IRIDIA Laboratory, Brussels School of Engineering, and colleagues have designed modular robots that can adapt their bodies by splitting and merging 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, but the authors suggest that the system can easily scale up. 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.

Self-reconstructing modular robots self-healing. Credit: Iridia Lab ULB

Explore further: Configuration and manipulation of soft robotics for on-orbit servicing

More information: Nithin Mathews et al, Mergeable nervous systems for robots, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00109-2

Related Stories

Thanks to RoboEarth the bots can learn on their own

February 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- We tend to assume that robots need human input in order to understand the world around them. In the near future humans may not even be a part of the robotic-learning equation. Soon, robots will be able to ...

Breakthrough with new generation robots

April 21, 2016

The robotics industry is on the precipice of a major breakthrough. Soon, industrial robots will be used at lower cost in small-scale production thanks to the operating system developed by the Dutch-German partnership SInBot. ...

Kilobots bring us one step closer to a robot swarm

June 17, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- When you think about robots, the odds are that you think about something that is fairly large. Maybe you picture a robot arms bolted to the floor of a factory or if you are feeling particularly dramatic maybe ...

Recommended for you

AI and 5G in focus at top mobile fair

February 24, 2018

Phone makers will seek to entice new buyers with better cameras and bigger screens at the world's biggest mobile fair starting Monday in Spain after a year of flat smartphone sales.

Google Assistant adds more languages in global push

February 23, 2018

Google said Friday its digital assistant software would be available in more than 30 languages by the end of the years as it steps up its artificial intelligence efforts against Amazon and others.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.