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Margo Dorigo and his team of researchers at the Université Libre de Bruxelles have developed self-reconfiguring modular robots that can merge, split and self-heal while retaining full sensorimotor control. These self-reconfiguring robots can adapt their bodies to react to tasks or their surroundings autonomously. 

The system – which can be seen in the video – is demonstrated using 10 units, but the authors suggest that the system can easily scale up. They also suggest that in the future, robots will no longer be designed and built for a particular task, and suggest that their system could eventually influence the production of robots that can adapt to changing task requirements.

The nervous system of each robot contains a tree-like topological description of the physical arrangement of the robot as a whole with the brain as the root. In particular, each unit has a representation of itself and all its “child” units, so that it is prepared to split off with its children and become the brain of a new robot at a moment’s notice. Sensory inputs and commands are passed up and down the tree structure.

At present, MNS robots that can change body shape and size while retaining fine sensorimotor coordination but they are limited by rigid connections between units and having to keep their wheels on the ground.

The next step, the researchers say, is to build in three dimensions and with flexible joints. In the video, you will see the MNS robots react to stimulus by pointing at it with their green LEDs, have a look to see how it works.



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