"Self-Reconfigurable Robots and Digital Hormones"
Self-reconfigurable modular robots are metamorphic systems that can autonomously change their logical or physical configurations (such as shapes, sizes, or formations), as well as their locomotion and manipulation, based on the mission and the environment in hand. Because of their modularity, versatility, self-healing ability and low cost reproducibility, such robots provide a flexible approach for achieving complex tasks in unstructured and dynamic environments. They are well suited for applications such as search and rescue, reconnaissance, self-assembly, inspections in hazardous environments, and exploration in space and ocean. The construction and control of these robots, however, are very challenging due to the dynamic topology of the module network, the limited resource of individual modules, the difficulties in global synchronization, the preclusion of centralized decision makers, and the unreliability of communication among modules. This talk presents a distributed and reliable control architecture and related algorithms for these challenges. The approach is inspired by the biological concept of hormones (thus the name ?digital hormones?) and it provides a unified solution for metamorphic systems? self-reconfiguration, locomotion, and manipulation. Modules are modeled as autonomous agents free from globally unique identifiers and they can physically connect and disconnect with each other and can communicate via content-based messages. In particular, the talk will present: (1) a particular self-reconfigurable robot called CONRO; (2) a general representation for self-reconfigurable systems; (3) distributed solutions for ?task negotiation,? ?topology-dependent behavior selection? and ?synchronization?; (4) distributed detection and reaction mechanisms for topology changes and message loss; and (5) demonstrations of unique, online, self-reconfiguration capabilities on the CONRO robots for bifurcation, unification, behavior shifting, and shape-alternations. An application for self-assembly in space may also be presented when time permits.