By Andy Choi
Robots perform the robotic mission impossible in this wonderful feat from European researchers. Three different kinds of robots must work together to reach their objective, to find and then retrieve a book on a high shelf. The exact location of the book is not known to the robots and they must work as a swarm to accomplish the mission.
Sounds like science fiction? It is in fact a heterogeneous robot swarm experiment conducted by the Free University of Brussels in Belgium. A combination of an eye bot, a foot bot and a hand bot was what Marco Doringo and his colleagues used to win the video competition organized at the Conference on Artificial Intelligence in San Franciso this week.
They had 30 foot bots, 10 eye bots and 8 hand bots in the ‘Swarmanoid’ that they used. The flying eye bots explored the environment by attaching themselves to the ceiling. They hunt for the book till they identify it. Next the foot bots take hold of the hand bot and lead it to the book as targeted by the eye bots. Now the hand bot climbs shelf after shelf till it reaches the target.
It will now acquire the target book and then use magnet tipped string that has reached up to the ceiling to lower itself to the ground. Mission impossible is now mission complete. The entire mission communication is carried out using LED color coded signals. Some additional infrared signals are used to locate fellow robots. Whilst it may not take a human too much effort to lift a book off the shelf this science suggests a lot of excitement is warranted with the many potential applications such technology could provide in the future.
The foot-bot is a particular configuration of modules based on the marXbot robotic platform. The foot-bot configuration includes a top CPU and vision module, a distance scnaner, a range and bearing module, a self-assembling module and a basic (mobility & battery) module.
The hand-bot is a fully new concept of robot specilized in both climbing vertical surfaces and manipulating objects. The hand-bot is not able to move on the ground (rely for this on the foot-bots and on self-assembling features) and has a very weak perception of distant environment (rely for this on the eye-bots)
The eye-bot has 8 rotors, arranged in a coaxial quadrotor configuration, that provide the main lifting force and control. The co-axial arrangement allows for a smaller size and increased payload capability.
To read more about the ‘Swarmanoid’ click here.