Daniela Rus serves as co-director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) Center for Robotics and professor in electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. See how NSF has supported her research. Image credit: Daniela Rus
Teaching a Robot to Tunnel
Robots can be made up of many individual modules, each one programmed to act independently. The modules then rearrange to create locomotion. In this algorithm, the robot rearranges to move through the confined space of a tunnel.
Divide and Conquer
Self-reconfiguring robots change shape without human intervention. So the challenge posed to robots is: given a start shape and a goal shape, find the sequence of events to achieve it without self-collision. Here, one robot breaks into four using just expand/contract and detach mechanisms.
This conceptual illustration shows how a reconfiguring robot made of cubes could morph from a dog shape to a couch shape. Someday, very tiny cubes could potentially manufacture on command any desired object.
Like a sculptor would remove extra marble to create a statue, an arrangement of robots can be commanded to self-disassemble in an organized manner to create a shape. First, the initial amorphous shape is assembled by hand. Then the modules communicate to establish their location and the goal shape. Finally, unneeded modules disconnect to create, in this example, a dog.