“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” — a catch phrase that aptly expresses the Distributed Flight Array: a modular robot consisting of hexagonal-shaped single-rotor units that can take on just about any shape or form. Although each unit is capable of generating enough thrust to lift itself off the ground, on its own it is incapable of flight much like a helicopter cannot fly without its tail rotor. However, when joined together, these units evolve into a sophisticated multi-rotor system capable of coordinated flight and much more.
In the 9th part of the ShanghAI Lecture series, we look at ontogenetic development as Rolf Pfeifer talks about the path from locomotion to cognition. This is followed by two guest lectures: The first one by Ning Lan (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China) on cortico-muscular communication in the nervous system, the second by Roland Siegwart (ETH Zurich) on the design and navigation of robots with various moving abilities.
In this sixth part of the ShanghAI Lecture series, Rolf Pfeifer introduces the topic “Artificial Evolution” and gives examples of evolutionary processes in artificial intelligence. The first guest lecture, by Francesco Mondada (EPFL) is about the use of robots in daily life; in the second guest lecture, Robert Riener (ETH Zürich) talks about rehabilitation robots.
Designing robots that can function outside of controlled, factory environments isn’t easy. When those environments have people in them, they are especially unpredictable and difficult for a robot to navigate.
Enter Rezero: a compact ballbot that can fluidly drive in any direction without prior orientation.
San Francisco based Bossa Nova Robotics develops personal robots for the home based on the ballbot technology under license from CMU. Founded by robotics entrepreneur Sarjoun Skaff as a spin-off out of Carnegie Mellon University´s Robotics Institute in 2005, the company manufactures the mObi robot that will be available for researchers and developers in 2013. The platform will feature PrimeSense 3D depth sensors, next generation Intel hardware and a reconfigurable plartform. The Intel processor runs either Windows or ROS (Robot Operating System). As the first commercially availavble ballbot plarform, mObi will provide unique capabilities for a broad range of robotics research and Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) applications.
The idea behind this project is to design a set of vehicles equipped with a single propeller and wheels that can drive around in search for fellow modules with whom to dock. Single modules are not stable but once assembled, the flight array is able to take-off and achieve coordinated flight. Modules then detach in-air, fall to the floor and repeat their search for other propellers.
The main challenge in this system is to come up with a distributed controller that can allow modules to work together to achieve coordinated flight. Because of its endless number of configurations, the distributed flight array is the perfect research and pedagogical testbed to study control theory for complex systems.
We were trying to imagine the sound of all of these propellers and then realized it would be fun to record the sound of some of the flying objects here at EPFL. If you manage to match the sound with the correct robot picture, we’ll be sending you a Wowwee Bladestar. If multiple correct answers are received, the winner will be selected randomly. The contest ends on the 27th of August and answers can be sent via email to email@example.com or can be posted below this episode in the comments section.