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HomeRoboticsModular voxel tech might carry swimming robots into the mainstream

Modular voxel tech might carry swimming robots into the mainstream

Bioinspired underwater robots that swim by undulating their our bodies could also be extra energy-efficient than their inflexible counterparts, however they’re additionally fairly tough to construct. That might quickly change nevertheless, due to a brand new modular robotics system.

Presently in growth at MIT, the system incorporates particular person constructing blocks referred to as voxels.

These are mainly hole plastic containers made up of a number of slender struts, that are stiff and load-bearing when pushed in a single path, however mushy and versatile when pushed in others. This mix of traits permits robots to take care of their total physique form whereas concurrently flexing it back and forth – all with out requiring complicated custom-designed {hardware}.

In a single demonstration of the know-how, the scientists constructed a ~1-meter (3.3-ft)-long snake-like robotic made up of 20 voxels joined end-to-end.

Actuators inside its physique pull on the edges of these voxels by way of metal cables, inflicting the voxels to sequentially compress and calm down to 1 aspect or the opposite, producing undulations that journey from the entrance of the physique to the rear (a tight-fitting neoprene pores and skin makes it extra hydrodynamic). Tow-tank exams confirmed that the robotic is certainly capable of effectively swim by way of the water on this trend.

A closer look at the Hydrosnake, with its neoprene skin taken off
A better have a look at the Hydrosnake, with its neoprene pores and skin taken off


And whereas the voxel-built “Hydrosnake” robotic is made up of solely about 60 particular person elements, the researchers state {that a} snake-like robotic beforehand constructed by NASA (utilizing standard elements) was made up of hundreds. Moreover, whereas MIT’s personal fish-like RoboTuna robotic took two years to design and construct, the Hydrosnake was put collectively in simply a few days.

The voxels had been additionally used to construct a wing, the profile (cross-sectional) form of which might morph to change its lift-to-drag ratio. An array of overlapping scale-like tiles on its exterior keep a watertight seal, even because the wing’s curvature is within the course of of fixing. Such wings might conceivably be utilized in techniques that generate energy from ocean waves, or that enable ships to maneuver by way of the water extra easily.

This underwater wing uses voxels to change shape
This underwater wing makes use of voxels to alter form


Moreover, as a result of the voxel system basically might be simply scaled as much as giant functions, the scientists consider it might sooner or later even be utilized in whale-inspired submarines that transfer by flexing mechanical flukes.

A paper on the research – which is being led by analysis assistant Alfonso Parra Rubio, Prof. Michael Triantafyllou and Prof. Neil Gershenfeld – was not too long ago printed within the journal Delicate Robotics.

The Hydrosnake and the morphing wing can each be seen in motion, within the video under.

Modular Morphing Lattices for Continuum Robotic Buildings

Supply: MIT



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