At this point in time, we have seen numerous kinds of robots, ranging from heavy-duty utility robots like the ones from Boston Dynamics to tiny crab-like robots that can be remotely controlled. Now, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the University of Calgary have developed a unique, modular robotic system that can form different structures and shapes using electromagnetism. Let’s take a look at the details below.
Researchers Develop Modular Robots That Can Form Structures
Dubbed ElectroVoxels, these robots come in the form of a cube and use electromagnetism to attach/detach with each other to form different kinds of structures and shapes. They can also move in low-gravity environments using the attraction and repulsive properties of electro-magnets, without requiring any motor or moving parts. Thanks to this functionality, the researchers say that ElectroVoxels can be used for many space-related solutions. Multiple ElectroVoxels can be used to form different kinds of shapes and structures.
Now, coming to the technicalities, each of the ElectroVoxel cube’s edges is made of electromagnetic ferrite cores that are wrapped in copper wires. The length of each ElectroVoxel is 60mm and costs 60 cents. Users can change the polarity of these magnets, thanks to PCBs and the necessary electronics inside, to either attract or repel each other. You can check out the video shared by MIT’s CSAIL department, detailing the robots, to get an idea about how they work in the real world. It is attached right below.
The researchers say that a software planner can be configured to control the electromagnets of the ElectroVoxels. The program can control up to 1000 ElectroVoxel robots and adjust the magnetic properties to form or change structures. Users will simply need to tell the software planner that they need the robotic blocks in a specific shape or structure, such as a couch or a table, and it will adjust the electromagnetic properties accordingly to form it using the ElectroVoxels.
The researchers say that as the robots can operate well in low-gravity environments, they can be used for various space-related solutions. For starters, the researchers suggest that they can change the inertia properties of a spacecraft, which might eliminate the need for extra fuel for reconfiguration. Furthermore, they can be used to build temporary structures in space that can assist astronauts and help in the inspection process of a space vessel.
Going forward, the researchers will continue to test the robots and incubate the technology to solve “near-term problems in space,” as per Martin Nesser, a Ph.D. student at MIT CSAIL and the lead author of the research paper. So, it will be interesting to see how these robots are implemented in space in the future. What do you think about these robots? Let us know your thoughts on them in the comments below. Also, stay tuned to Beebom for more such interesting stories.