Friday, March 25, 2005

 

Shape-shifting robots

In its newest issue, Discover has an article about shape-shifting robots, called M-TRANs, that rely on gentic algorithms to adapt to the environment. The robot is composed of about a dozen small modules each composed of 2 rotating blocks linked together. Modules can connect to other modules via switching magnets. The M-TRAN design mixes lattice-based designs (good for self-reconfiguration) and chain system designs (for mobility).

The designers (Japanese Distributed Systems Design Research Group) foresee such robots being used for ocean exploration, space station assembly, and rescue operations, where the changing environment makes otherwise special-purpose robots inferior in handling unpredicted damage or obstacles.

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