Friday, March 02, 2007

The Reconfigurable Robot

A modular robot is under development that would be able to form itself into many different kinds of robots. Each module is a self-contained unit (like a cell, only bigger) that can merge with other units to form anything from wheels to snakes to walking humanoids. The modules can communicate with one another so that each module knows what its role in the larger structure is. The modules can also find each other and either connect with or disconnect from each other as necessary. No central processor is needed. In fact, you could almost program a single module with knowledge of what needed to be built and he would go connect to other modules and spread the knowledge to all of his comrades. "Form feet and legs; form arms and body; and I'll form the head!" No one module would necessarily have to be in charge. It would instead be a collective.

Imagine if we could shrink these modules down to the size of a living cell. Suddenly, the T1000 isn't so far fetched. An entity composed of such modules would not cease to function when dealt what would be a devastating blow to a biological organism. To regenerate, undamaged modules would reconfigure themselves around the damaged area. Additional, undamaged modules would be necessary to do a full repair, but perhaps it would just make itself a few inches shorter to address damage that could effect its ability to move around in its environment. ("I appear to be missing a leg. Well, I think I can live with being 4'10" instead of 6'1".")

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