Soft Self-Reconfigurable Robots - Laboratory of Intelligent Systems - EPFL

Soft Self-Reconfigurable Robots in Air

Increasing Efficiency through Mechanical Softness

Self-reconfigurable robots are capable of adapting their morphology to tasks and environment, which makes them more versatile, flexible and robust compared to fixed-bodied ones. Most current systems lack mechanical flexibility when increasing the number of modules due to hard building blocks (modules) and highly rigid connection mechanisms. What if modules become completely soft and the robot can benefit from almost infinite deformability?

The goal of this project is to thus look at how mechanical module softness can increase the efficiency and the capabilities of a self-reconfigurable robot. The study will be carried out with modules floating in air and will include design and development of novel soft technologies, smart sensing and actuation.

In nature, many multi-cellular organisms are flexible thanks to their soft building cells and their flexible connection mechanism. Inspired by this observation, we hypothesize that a self-reconfigurable robot with soft modules and flexible connection mechanisms offers several advantages:

  1. reducing need for self-reconfiguration
  2. supporting self-repair
  3. simplifying self-assembly

We propose a new approach where we aim at developing soft self-reconfigurable robots floating in air, featuring soft modules with connection mechanisms, actuation, sensing and control.

The outcome of this project will contribute fundamentally to the research in self-reconfigurable robotics and at the same time to technology advancement in soft robotics.