New bioinspired robot flies, rolls, walks, and more

2023-07-20 12:13:35
New bioinspired robot flies, rolls, walks, and more

A groundbreaking creation has emerged in the field of robotics - a real-life Transformer that possesses the remarkable ability to adapt its body to achieve eight distinct types of motion. This incredible robot, named M4 (short for Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot), not only possesses the capability to roll on four wheels, but can also transform its wheels into rotors, fly through the air, stand on two wheels like a meerkat to overcome obstacles, "walk" using its wheels as feet, utilize rotors to conquer steep slopes on two wheels, and even perform tumbling maneuvers.

The potential applications for a robot with such diverse capabilities are vast and promising. Mory Gharib, the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering and director of Caltech's Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST), where the robot was developed, envisions scenarios ranging from transporting injured individuals to hospitals to exploring uncharted territories on other planets.

The brilliant minds behind M4 are Mory Gharib and Alireza Ramezani, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University. They were supported by a team of experts including Eric Sihite, a postdoctoral scholar research associate in aerospace at Caltech, Reza Nemovi, a design engineer at CAST, and Arash Kalantari from JPL, managed by Caltech for NASA. Their remarkable creation was announced in a paper published in Nature Communications on June 27, further solidifying their groundbreaking achievements.

Ramezani, the corresponding author of the Nature Communications paper, explains the team's objectives in developing M4: "Our aim was to push the boundaries of robot locomotion by designing a system that showcases extraordinary mobility capabilities with a wide range of distinct locomotion modes. The M4 project successfully achieved these objectives."

What sets M4 apart from other robots is not only its impressive range of motion, but also its integration of artificial intelligence. This innovative combination allows the robot to autonomously assess its environment and determine the most effective form of locomotion based on the terrain it encounters. Imagine the M4 exploring an unfamiliar landscape: it would begin by rolling on its four wheels, utilizing its most energy-efficient mode. When it encounters an obstacle, such as a boulder, it can effortlessly transition to standing on two wheels, granting it a better vantage point to assess the ground ahead. And if it comes across a ravine or another impassable feature, the M4 can swiftly transform its wheels into rotors, enabling it to fly over and resume its rolling motion on the other side.

The capabilities of the M4 are truly remarkable, promising a new era in robotics. With its ability to adapt to various environments and navigate treacherous terrains, this transformative robot has the potential to revolutionize industries such as search and rescue, space exploration, and beyond. The combination of creativity, intelligence, and technical expertise demonstrated by the team behind M4 opens up a world of possibilities for the future of robotics.