Modular reconfigurable robotics research at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center)

Arancha Casal, David Duff, Kimon Roufas, John Suh, Mark Yim (PI), and Ying Zhang

Wednesday, February 23, 2000
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

Suh_Spider3Crop2.jpg (10683 bytes)

Polybot reconfiguring into a 4-legged spider from an intermediate "X" stage

The modular-reconfigurable robotics project at Xerox PARC seeks to design, build, and test robotics that are made up of a number of identical modules. While each module can perform only elementary mechanical functions, by combining a number of them (10s to 100s), it is believed that complex locomotion and manipulation tasks are possible. Another goal of the project is to remotely and autonomously reconfigure the physical arrangement of modules to allow for multiple configurations.

Two kinds of modular-reconfigurable robots are being investigated, closed-chain and lattice reconfiguration. The closed-chain robot is called PolyBot and is made up of one revolute DOF module. It also has two faces with active latching and is designed to cantilever three modules. The lattice reconfiguration is called Proteo. Two shapes of Proteo have been considered: one is based on rhombic dodecahedron (RD) and the other on a cube. The RD modules are intended to "roll" over one another, and the cube modules are intended to shrink and expand to create spaces for lattice movement.

We believe that applications of modular-reconfigurable robotics include a) search and rescue; b) underwater and surface exploration; c) hazardous space inspection; d) confined space inspection; e) convalescing persons assistance, and f) programmable toys.

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 Last updated: December 19, 2000