SMORES Robot Finds Its Own Way To The Campfire

Robots that can dynamically reconfigure themselves to adapt to their environments offer a promising advantage over their less dynamic cousins. Researchers have been working through all the challenges of realizing that potential: hardware, software, and all the interactions in between. On the software end of the spectrum, a team at University of Pennsylvania’s ModLab has been working on a robot that can autonomously choose a configuration to best fit its task at hand.

We’ve recently done an overview of modular robots, and we noted that coordination and control are persistent challenges in this area. The robot in this particular demonstration is a hybrid: a fixed core module serving as central command, plus six of the lab’s dynamic SMORES-EP modules. The core module has a RGB+Depth camera for awareness of its environment. A separate downwards-looking camera watches SMORES modules for awareness of itself.

Combining that data using a mix of open robot research software and new machine specific code, this team’s creation autonomously navigates an unfamiliar test environment. While it can adapt to specific terrain challenges like a wood staircase, there are still limitations on situations it can handle. Kudos to the researchers for honestly showing and explaining how the robot can get stuck on a ground seam, instead of editing that gaffe out to cover it up.

While this robot isn’t the completely decentralized modular robot system some are aiming for, it would be a mistake to dismiss based on that criticism alone. At the very least, it is an instructive step on the journey offering a tradeoff that’s useful on its own merits. And perhaps this hybrid approach will find application with a modular robot close to our hearts: Dtto, the winner of our 2016 Hackaday Prize.

[via Science News]

Continue reading “SMORES Robot Finds Its Own Way To The Campfire”

Quadrotor Squadron Plays The [James Bond] Theme Song In Preparation For World Domination

quadrotor-james-bond-theme

If you weren’t already a big fan of quadrotors by this point, we’re pretty sure the video below will get you on the bandwagon in no time flat.

The video was debuted this past week at the TED2012 conference, giving [Daniel Mellinger, Alex Kushleyev, and Vijay Kumar] from the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab, a chance to show off their amazing robotics work. The team used a set of autonomous quadrotors to play the [James Bond] theme, complete with keyboard, drums, cymbals, guitar, and maracas.

The coordination of the robots undoubtedly took an incredible amount of time to orchestrate, but after watching the video we think it is well worth the effort. Now of course you can’t simply input a piece of sheet music into the quadrotor control system and expect them to play it, but we imagine that time will arrive before you know it!

Continue reading to see the [James Bond] theme song in full, and be sure to swing by the U Penn site to read more about the project.

Thanks to everyone who sent this one in!

Continue reading “Quadrotor Squadron Plays The [James Bond] Theme Song In Preparation For World Domination”