CONRO: Towards Deployable Robots with Inter-Robots Metamorphic Capabilities


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Abstract

Metamorphic robots are modular robots that can reconfigure their shape. Such capability is desirable in tasks such as earthquake search and rescue and battlefield surveillance and scouting, where robots must go through unexpected situations and obstacles and perform tasks that are difficult for fixed-shape robots. The capabilities of the robots are determined by the design specification of their modules. In this paper, we present the design specification of a CONRO module, a small, self-sufficient and relatively homogeneous module that can be connected to other modules to form complex robots. These robots have not only the capability of changing their shape (intra-robot metamorphing) but also can split into smaller robots or merge with other robots to create a single larger robot (inter-robot metamorphing), i.e., CONRO robots can alter their shape and their size. Thus, heterogeneous robot teams can be built with homogeneous components. Furthermore, the CONRO robots can separate the reconfiguration stage from the locomotion stage, allowing the selection of configuration-dependent gaits. The locomotion and automatic inter-module docking capabilities of such robots were tested using tethered prototypes that can be reconfigured manually. We conclude the paper discussing the future work needed to fully realize the construction of these robots.

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