A new way to build shapeshifting robots

A robot capable of shifting shape, thus being usable for a wide range of purposes with only software needing to be changed is damn cool. Blocks that
crawl over each other are one way of going about this, but require connectors on each block, complicating things.
As the robot can only interact at its surface, a shapeshifting sheet may be a good solution. A triangular mesh of actuators, or perhaps two triangular mesh layers, with actuators between the two layers, for better control and rigidity (think of something like the atomic arrangement of a very thin layer of diamond).
Actuators could be something like air muscles, with the 'nodes' where they join being metal rings. The connections between actuators shouldn't allow slop, but as many of them are needed, they should be cheap, and so cannot be precision made - some kind of rubber or spring-based means of connection seems sensible.
The actuators do not need to have a continuous range of motion, two states should be enough, as the position of the sheet usually only needs to be controlled at selected points (contact points). The further an actuator is from one of those points, the less effect switching it between the short and long states has on the position of that point, thus fine tuning of the position of that point can be done by adjusting the actuators in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Most of the mesh would usually have its actuators in the long position, saving the high density of actuators for areas where more precise manipulation is needed, and the number of contact points is high. Another useful result of this is that if the edges of the sheet have connectors, these can easily be attached while the mesh is expanded by another piece of mesh in the compact form, allowing sheetshifting robots to split and join as well as the crawling block designs.
Programming the thing could be complicated, tho. Perhaps the driver could accept positions where manipulation is to be performed, with estimates of the force the robot needs to be ready to apply, and areas the tobot must keep out of, use these to search for rough sheet configurations fulfilling these constraints, and use parameters of the curvature to control the average numbers of actuators in the long and short states in different parts of the mesh.
In areas where precise manipulation is being performed, once the contact points are in approximately the right place, fine tuning could take place successively further from the contact points. A combination of simulated annealing, and a database of effects of different combinations of actuator states in small clusters may be useful.
Precision would not be great, especially over long distances, but adjustable compliance should be quite possible, and if necessary the thing could be studded with rangefinders pinging each other.
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A robot capable of shifting shape, thus being usable for a wide range of purposes with only software needing to be changed is damn cool. Blocks that crawl over each other are one way of going about this, but require connectors on each block, complicating things.
As the robot can only interact at its surface, a shapeshifting sheet may be a good solution. A triangular mesh of actuators, or perhaps two triangular mesh layers, with actuators between the two layers, for better control and rigidity (think of something like the atomic arrangement of a very thin layer of diamond).
Actuators could be something like air muscles, with the 'nodes' where they join being metal rings. The connections between actuators shouldn't allow slop, but as many of them are needed, they should be cheap, and so cannot be precision made - some kind of rubber or spring-based means of connection seems sensible.
The actuators do not need to have a continuous range of motion, two states should be enough, as the position of the sheet usually only needs to be controlled at selected points (contact points). The further an actuator is from one of those points, the less effect switching it between the short and long states has on the position of that point, thus fine tuning of the position of that point can be done by adjusting the actuators in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Most of the mesh would usually have its actuators in the long position, saving the high density of actuators for areas where more precise manipulation is needed, and the number of contact points is high. Another useful result of this is that if the edges of the sheet have connectors, these can easily be attached while the mesh is expanded by another piece of mesh in the compact form, allowing sheetshifting robots to split and join as well as the crawling block designs.
Programming the thing could be complicated, tho. Perhaps the driver could accept positions where manipulation is to be performed, with estimates of the force the robot needs to be ready to apply, and areas the tobot must keep out of, use these to search for rough sheet configurations fulfilling these constraints, and use parameters of the curvature to control the average numbers of actuators in the long and short states in different parts of the mesh.
In areas where precise manipulation is being performed, once the contact points are in approximately the right place, fine tuning could take place successively further from the contact points. A combination of simulated annealing, and a database of effects of different combinations of actuator states in small clusters may be useful.
Precision would not be great, especially over long distances, but adjustable compliance should be quite possible, and if necessary the thing could be studded with rangefinders pinging each other.
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sam kayley wrote:

[sniped remaining post]
A thought so nice you posted twice? ;)
Multi-component "shape-shifting" bots is an old idea way ahead of it's time. Some researchers have actually attempted such creations using clunky modern day servos, with understandably dismal results. Such an idea will never be truly realized until we have a small, cheap, silent, and reliable actuator. If we're lucky, we might see such an actuator in the form of electrically activated polymers within the next decade. However, this is one of those technologies that's been "coming real soon now" for the last several years, if not decades, with no real progress in sight, so I'm not holding my breadth.
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This post threw me back to the mid 1990's when a guy named Joseph Michael was on about "fractal robots". It has the look of a "crack pot post" because it appears to be some sort of manifesto. There are others who troll this group, and I dare not mention names... Think King ______'s court and Fred Mac_____ to name one.
It askes no questions, asks for no opinions, and asks for no help. Ugh,
Mike

that
be
be
and
of
as
parts
adjustable
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blueeyedpop wrote:

I, too, smell "fractal robot guy".
--
(Replies: cleanse my address of the Mark of the Beast!)

Teleoperate a roving mobile robot from the web:
  Click to see the full signature.
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because
Yes, I did post this to get comments and opinions.
There is more than one person in the world who finds the idea of shapeshifting robotics interesting, and more than one possible design for such things, have a look at Hans Moravec's bush robots:
http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/project.archive/robot.papers/1999/NASA.report.99/
Moravec's bush robot is a fractal design, which caused problems obtaining parts for a prototype as many different sizes are needed. The design I tried to sketch isn't fractal, all actuators and joints are of the same scale.
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Well, If I were overly harsh, please accept my apologies. It is just that the original post is just a statement. Ask questions. For example:
* I am interested in constructing a "fractal forbot". I have some ideas which might work, but I want to corroborate with someone. Any takers? * I have an interesting idea for a series of articulated joints which for a configutable robot, but the _____ portion of the build leaves we with a lot of questions.
Mike

Michael
Fred
http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/project.archive/robot.papers/1999/NASA.report .99/
tried
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that
It appeals to me (as a possible peice of Fine Art). One thing I`ve been considering recently too is if the whole Robots skin was sensitive to external stimuli instead of a few strategically placed sensors; how would this be possible?
----------------------------------------------------------------------- Ashley Clarke -------------------------------------------------------
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sam kayley wrote:

Get the movie "Demon Seed".
                John Nagle
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On Sat, 30 Oct 2004 00:02:00 +0000 (UTC), "sam kayley"
What about this robot:
http://www2.parc.com/spl/projects/modrobots/polybot/demonstrations/g1v4demos.html

[snip]
Sig: I have a brain the size of a planet. It's not much good to me, however. It's on a different planet.
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http://www2.parc.com/spl/projects/modrobots/polybot/demonstrations/g1v4demos.html
So we go from the usual insect type designs to the single cellular; what next, "Atomic bots"?
I guess an Atomic Bot would just consist of two or three spheres moving around each other (as a basic modular design)?
But more seriously though, it exemplifies the limitless possibilities robotics has to offer mechanical engineers.
----------------------------------------------------------------------- Ashley Clarke -------------------------------------------------------
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