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Shape-Shifting Robot Compensates For Damaged Limb

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Shape-shifting Roombots in one of a multitude of possible configurations.

Credit: New Scientist

European roboticists have developed software that enables a modular robot to adapt when one part stops working.

The University of Southern Denmark's David Johan Christensen collaborated with the Swiss Federal Technical Institute's Alexander Sprowitz and Auke Ijspeert to simulate a quadruped robot constructed from a dozen Roombots. In the simulation, each Roombot randomly alters its pattern of movement every few seconds and assesses the impact on the quadruped's walking speed. After about 10 minutes, the quadruped increases its speed from 5 centimeters per second (cm/s) to 31 cm/s.

One Roombot was made to malfunction, reducing the walking speed to 15 cm/s, and the quadruped learned to adapt its gait. The robot increased its pace to 21 cm/s after about 20 minutes.

View videos of the various gates obtained by shape-shifting Roombots.

A U.S. team in 2006 designed a multi-legged robot that learned to adapt after damage. The U.S. researchers believe the two approaches could be complementary. "This method is especially suited for distributed systems such as modular robots," says Cornell University's Hod Lipson.

From New Scientist
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