Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Robot Space Cowboys

06.12.2002


A unique University of Southern California design for self-organizing robots controlled by "hormonal" software is moving toward space.


Schematic diagram of architecture of self-assembling solar power satellite. Seeker "whip" units, (yellow) powered at both ends, listen for signals from subassemblies, find them, and pull them together.



At the Robosphere 2002 conference held at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley November 14-15, Wei-Min Shen of the USC School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) presented an overview of an audacious project to have pieces of the proposed half-mile-long Space Solar Power System satellite put themselves together--self-assemble--without the help of astronauts.

Shen and co-principal investigator Peter Will are doing more than proposing. They are already testing the hardware and software the system would use in the ISI Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory, of which Shen is director.


Over the past two and a half years, Shen and Will have developed modular individual robot units, each with a computer chip programmed with what the researchers call "hormonal" software. Shen said that such software allows "bifurcation, unification, and behavior shifting" by the modules.

The units can unite themselves into larger wholes, or divide themselves up into smaller ones. "If a six-unit snake splits in half," explained Shen, "you get two smaller, three-unit snakes that function as the larger one did."

Separated units communicate using infrared signals, maneuvering their coupling units into a lock in cooperative, coordinated fashion.

"Behavior shifting" means that the individual units--which are identical--exhibit different behavior according to their position in the assembly.

Will and Shen’s CONRO project created working units that use the software. Shen and Will’s new SOLAR space station proposal, funded by a consortium including NASA, the NSF, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), proposes to use this architecture on a gigantic scale.

They propose a self-assembling space station consisting of two species of robotic devices, both controlled by the same software.

One species will be the parts that will actually make up the station: solar power units, including necessary utility conduits. Each of these will have a microprocessor running hormonal software. Sets of contiguious units will, once released into space, arrange themselves into the desired configuration.

When these subassemblies are ready, they will signal and alert the second species of robot, the "free-flying intelligent fiber rope matchmaker units," or whips.

Whips will consist of two modular robot units connected by a long connector line that can shorten or lengthen at the direction of the software. They will also have solar-powered rockets, enabling them to move in space, GPS sensors to find their position, communicators, and connectors.

When a completed subassembly signals, a whip will maneuver toward it, lock on, wait for a call from a second assembly, tow the first over, pull them together by winching in the fiber rope, so that the two can attach to each other.

Once mating accomplished, the whip unit would then fly off to find other parts to assemble.

The design, said Will, combines the advantages of free-flying and tethered systems.

In the laboratory, Shen and Will have modeled the concept in two-dimensional form, working with an air-hockey table on which prototype individual units will learn to find each other by sensing each other’s infrared signals, maneuver next to each other using built-in fans, lock on, and pull units together using a motorized cable.

"This will give both the hardware and software a realistic test," said Shen. Researcher Harshit Suri has built a first prototype unit.

Shen and Will won the grant from the NSF/NSA/EPRI consortium that funds their work in a rigorous competition in which 76 proposals were received and only four were funded.

Shen, Will, and ISI collaborator Behnam Salemi published a detailed paper, "Hormone-Inspired Adaptive Communication and Distributed Control for CONRO Self-Reconfigurable Robots," in IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation. in October, 2002. They have recently applied for a U.S. patent on the technology.

Working with Shen and Will in the field of space assembly are two faculty members from the USC School of Engineering: Berokh Khoshnevis of the department of industrial and systems engineering; and George Bekey, of the department of computer science. Along with Suri and Salemi, Yusuf Akteskan is working on the space system project.

The ISI Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory is one of six laboratories associated with the USC School of Engineering’s Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems.


Contact: Wei-Min Shen, shen@isi.edu , (310) 448-8710 .

Eric Mankin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.isi.edu/robots/solar/index.html
http://www.isi.edu/robots/
http://robosphere.arc.nasa.gov/Workshop.html

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht Intelligent wheelchairs, predictive prostheses
20.12.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA

nachricht Jelly with memory – predicting the leveling of com-mercial paints
15.12.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>