Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Top five "out there" robot ideas

Robotics is a field on the verge of taking off. The first commercial robots are in people's homes (we love our Roomba), and there are all kinds of wild ideas out there for what robots can do. So inspired by the "roachbot" in today's Science Times here are the top 5 "out there" robot ideas:
5. The Roachbot: Basically a car which is controlled by a poor little coachroach atop a ping pong ball.

4. The intestine crawler: This 6-legged robot disigned at Carnagie Mellon's nanorobotics lab will crawl around your small intestines snapping pictures as it goes.

3. Reproducing Robots: This robot can copy itself - sort of.

2. The SlugBot: The SlugBot gets its energy by hunting its food (slugs) and digesting them.

1. The ShapeShifter: I coach a First Lego League Robotics team and my kids really like the idea of the TETwalker a tetrahedral robot that walks by shortening two of its lengths and falling over. I'm going to see if we can build one out of Mindstorms. Anyway NASA has ideas about connecting together several of these tet structures to create a shapeshifting swarm. Here is a paragraph from their press release:

These miniature TETwalkers, when joined together in "swarms," will have great advantages over current systems. The swarm has abundant flexibility so it can change its shape to accomplish highly diverse goals. For example, while traveling through a planet's atmosphere, the swarm might flatten itself to form an aerodynamic shield. Upon landing, it can shift its shape to form a snake-like swarm and slither away over difficult terrain. If it finds something interesting, it can grow an antenna and transmit data to Earth. Highly-collapsible material can also be strung between nodes for temperature control or to create a deployable solar sail.


At 10:01 AM, Blogger dinoj said...

I hope the research community working on swarms has figured out a way to control them! I've not kept up with the literature by any means, but last I heard, they were still at the "interesting, but how do you control them" stage? PS: good reading: Crichton's Prey.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Mark SubbaRao said...

Yeah these are definately a long way off. Closer are swarms that follow simple rules, the problem is that you can't really control them - jut hope hey o something ineresting.

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