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Chapter 22 — Modular Robots

I-Ming Chen and Mark Yim

This chapter presents a discussion of modular robots from both an industrial and a research point of view. The chapter is divided into four sections, one focusing on existing reconfigurable modular manipulators typically in an industry setting (Sect. 22.2) and another focusing on self-reconfigurable modular robots typically in a research setting (Sect. 22.4). Both sections are sandwiched between the introduction and conclusion sections.

This chapter is focused on design issues. Rather than a survey of existing systems, it presents some of the existing systems in the context of a discussion of the issues and elements in industrial modular robotics and modular robotics research. The reader is encouraged to look at the references for further discussion on any of the presented topics.

ATRON robot showing robust and reversible execution of self-reconfiguration sequences

Author  Ulrik Pagh Schultz

Video ID : 5

ATRON robot showing robust and reversible execution of self-reconfiguration sequences.

Chapter 58 — Robotics in Hazardous Applications

James Trevelyan, William R. Hamel and Sung-Chul Kang

Robotics researchers have worked hard to realize a long-awaited vision: machines that can eliminate the need for people to work in hazardous environments. Chapter 60 is framed by the vision of disaster response: search and rescue robots carrying people from burning buildings or tunneling through collapsed rock falls to reach trapped miners. In this chapter we review tangible progress towards robots that perform routine work in places too dangerous for humans. Researchers still have many challenges ahead of them but there has been remarkable progress in some areas. Hazardous environments present special challenges for the accomplishment of desired tasks depending on the nature and magnitude of the hazards. Hazards may be present in the form of radiation, toxic contamination, falling objects or potential explosions. Technology that specialized engineering companies can develop and sell without active help from researchers marks the frontier of commercial feasibility. Just inside this border lie teleoperated robots for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and for underwater engineering work. Even with the typical tenfold disadvantage in manipulation performance imposed by the limits of today’s telepresence and teleoperation technology, in terms of human dexterity and speed, robots often can offer a more cost-effective solution. However, most routine applications in hazardous environments still lie far beyond the feasibility frontier. Fire fighting, remediating nuclear contamination, reactor decommissioning, tunneling, underwater engineering, underground mining and clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance still present many unsolved problems.

NanoMag magnetic crawler for remote inspection

Author  James P. Trevelyan

Video ID : 591

Promotional video for an inspection robot. This robot is clearly limited to working on magnetic surfaces.

Chapter 75 — Biologically Inspired Robotics

Fumiya Iida and Auke Jan Ijspeert

Throughout the history of robotics research, nature has been providing numerous ideas and inspirations to robotics engineers. Small insect-like robots, for example, usually make use of reflexive behaviors to avoid obstacles during locomotion, whereas large bipedal robots are designed to control complex human-like leg for climbing up and down stairs. While providing an overview of bio-inspired robotics, this chapter particularly focus on research which aims to employ robotics systems and technologies for our deeper understanding of biological systems. Unlike most of the other robotics research where researchers attempt to develop robotic applications, these types of bio-inspired robots are generally developed to test unsolved hypotheses in biological sciences. Through close collaborations between biologists and roboticists, bio-inspired robotics research contributes not only to elucidating challenging questions in nature but also to developing novel technologies for robotics applications. In this chapter, we first provide a brief historical background of this research area and then an overview of ongoing research methodologies. A few representative case studies will detail the successful instances in which robotics technologies help identifying biological hypotheses. And finally we discuss challenges and perspectives in the field.

Biologically inspired robotics (or bio-inspired robotics in short) is a very broad research area because almost all robotic systems are, in one way or the other, inspired from biological systems. Therefore, there is no clear distinction between bio-inspired robots and the others, and there is no commonly agreed definition [75.1]. For example, legged robots that walk, hop, and run are usually regarded as bio-inspired robots because many biological systems rely on legged locomotion for their survival. On the other hand, many robotics researchers implement biologicalmodels ofmotion control and navigation onto wheeled platforms, which could also be regarded as bio-inspired robots [75.2].

RobotRoach with adaptive gait-pattern variations

Author  Fumiya Iida, Auke Ijspeert

Video ID : 112

This video presents variations of adaptive-gait patterns inspired by insect locomotion. The computational models of central pattern generators were implemented on the physical platform to investigate its robustness and its flexibility of locomotion in many variations of its environment.

Chapter 53 — Multiple Mobile Robot Systems

Lynne E. Parker, Daniela Rus and Gaurav S. Sukhatme

Within the context of multiple mobile, and networked robot systems, this chapter explores the current state of the art. After a brief introduction, we first examine architectures for multirobot cooperation, exploring the alternative approaches that have been developed. Next, we explore communications issues and their impact on multirobot teams in Sect. 53.3, followed by a discussion of networked mobile robots in Sect. 53.4. Following this we discuss swarm robot systems in Sect. 53.5 and modular robot systems in Sect. 53.6. While swarm and modular systems typically assume large numbers of homogeneous robots, other types of multirobot systems include heterogeneous robots. We therefore next discuss heterogeneity in cooperative robot teams in Sect. 53.7. Once robot teams allow for individual heterogeneity, issues of task allocation become important; Sect. 53.8 therefore discusses common approaches to task allocation. Section 53.9 discusses the challenges of multirobot learning, and some representative approaches. We outline some of the typical application domains which serve as test beds for multirobot systems research in Sect. 53.10. Finally, we conclude in Sect. 53.11 with some summary remarks and suggestions for further reading.

Reconfigurable multi-agents with distributed sensing for robust mobile robots

Author  Robin Murphy

Video ID : 206

In marsupial teams, a mother robot carries one or more daughter robots. This video shows that a mother robot can opportunistically treat daughter robots as surrogate sensors in order to autonomously reconfigure herself to recover from sensor failures.

Chapter 76 — Evolutionary Robotics

Stefano Nolfi, Josh Bongard, Phil Husbands and Dario Floreano

Evolutionary Robotics is a method for automatically generating artificial brains and morphologies of autonomous robots. This approach is useful both for investigating the design space of robotic applications and for testing scientific hypotheses of biological mechanisms and processes. In this chapter we provide an overview of methods and results of Evolutionary Robotics with robots of different shapes, dimensions, and operation features. We consider both simulated and physical robots with special consideration to the transfer between the two worlds.

Introduction to evolutionary robotics at EPFL

Author  Dario Floreano

Video ID : 119

Method for evolving the neural network of a robot. Valid gene sequences are extracted (magnifying lens) from a binary string representing the genome of the robot. Those genes are translated into neurons of different types (colors) according to the genetic specifications, such as sensory, motor, excitatory, or inhibitory neurons. The corresponding neural network is connected to the sensors and motors of the robot and the resulting behavior of the robot is measured according to the fitness function. The genomes of the individuals that had the worst performance are discarded from the population (symbolically thrown into a dustbin) whereas the genomes of the best individuals are paired and crossed over with small random mutations to generate new offspring (the process of selective reproduction is symbolically shown to occur in a mother robot). After several generations of selective reproductions with mutations, robots display better or novel behaviors.

Chapter 71 — Cognitive Human-Robot Interaction

Bilge Mutlu, Nicholas Roy and Selma Šabanović

A key research challenge in robotics is to design robotic systems with the cognitive capabilities necessary to support human–robot interaction. These systems will need to have appropriate representations of the world; the task at hand; the capabilities, expectations, and actions of their human counterparts; and how their own actions might affect the world, their task, and their human partners. Cognitive human–robot interaction is a research area that considers human(s), robot(s), and their joint actions as a cognitive system and seeks to create models, algorithms, and design guidelines to enable the design of such systems. Core research activities in this area include the development of representations and actions that allow robots to participate in joint activities with people; a deeper understanding of human expectations and cognitive responses to robot actions; and, models of joint activity for human–robot interaction. This chapter surveys these research activities by drawing on research questions and advances from a wide range of fields including computer science, cognitive science, linguistics, and robotics.

Robotic secrets revealed, Episode 2: The trouble begins

Author  Greg Trafton

Video ID : 130

This video demonstrates research on robot perception (including object recognition and multimodal person identification) and embodied cognition (including theory of mind or the ability to reason about what others believe). The video features two people interacting with two robots.

Chapter 58 — Robotics in Hazardous Applications

James Trevelyan, William R. Hamel and Sung-Chul Kang

Robotics researchers have worked hard to realize a long-awaited vision: machines that can eliminate the need for people to work in hazardous environments. Chapter 60 is framed by the vision of disaster response: search and rescue robots carrying people from burning buildings or tunneling through collapsed rock falls to reach trapped miners. In this chapter we review tangible progress towards robots that perform routine work in places too dangerous for humans. Researchers still have many challenges ahead of them but there has been remarkable progress in some areas. Hazardous environments present special challenges for the accomplishment of desired tasks depending on the nature and magnitude of the hazards. Hazards may be present in the form of radiation, toxic contamination, falling objects or potential explosions. Technology that specialized engineering companies can develop and sell without active help from researchers marks the frontier of commercial feasibility. Just inside this border lie teleoperated robots for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and for underwater engineering work. Even with the typical tenfold disadvantage in manipulation performance imposed by the limits of today’s telepresence and teleoperation technology, in terms of human dexterity and speed, robots often can offer a more cost-effective solution. However, most routine applications in hazardous environments still lie far beyond the feasibility frontier. Fire fighting, remediating nuclear contamination, reactor decommissioning, tunneling, underwater engineering, underground mining and clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance still present many unsolved problems.

Remote handling and inspection with the VT450

Author  James P. Trevelyan

Video ID : 592

Promotional video for an inspection robot.

Chapter 36 — Motion for Manipulation Tasks

James Kuffner and Jing Xiao

This chapter serves as an introduction to Part D by giving an overview of motion generation and control strategies in the context of robotic manipulation tasks. Automatic control ranging from the abstract, high-level task specification down to fine-grained feedback at the task interface are considered. Some of the important issues include modeling of the interfaces between the robot and the environment at the different time scales of motion and incorporating sensing and feedback. Manipulation planning is introduced as an extension to the basic motion planning problem, which can be modeled as a hybrid system of continuous configuration spaces arising from the act of grasping and moving parts in the environment. The important example of assembly motion is discussed through the analysis of contact states and compliant motion control. Finally, methods aimed at integrating global planning with state feedback control are summarized.

Demonstration of multisensor integration in industrial manipulation

Author  Torsten Kröger et al.

Video ID : 361

This video demonstrates the potential of multisensor integration in industrial manipulation. A robot is programmed to play the Jenga game. Two cameras are mounted on the manipulator to calculate the positions of all cuboids online. A 6-DOF force/torque sensor and a 6-DOF acceleration sensor are mounted between a hand and gripper to give force/tactile feedback. The manipulator randomly chooses one block and tries to push it out and then put it on the top of the tower. In this video, a record of putting 29 blocks onto the top of the tower is achieved.

Chapter 19 — Robot Hands

Claudio Melchiorri and Makoto Kaneko

Multifingered robot hands have a potential capability for achieving dexterous manipulation of objects by using rolling and sliding motions. This chapter addresses design, actuation, sensing and control of multifingered robot hands. From the design viewpoint, they have a strong constraint in actuator implementation due to the space limitation in each joint. After briefly introducing the overview of anthropomorphic end-effector and its dexterity in Sect. 19.1, various approaches for actuation are provided with their advantages and disadvantages in Sect. 19.2. The key classification is (1) remote actuation or build-in actuation and (2) the relationship between the number of joints and the number of actuator. In Sect. 19.3, actuators and sensors used for multifingered hands are described. In Sect. 19.4, modeling and control are introduced by considering both dynamic effects and friction. Applications and trends are given in Sect. 19.5. Finally, this chapter is closed with conclusions and further reading.

The DLR Hand performing several tasks

Author  DLR - Robotics and Mechatronics Center

Video ID : 769

In the video, several experiments and the execution of different tasks by the DLR Hand II are shown.

Chapter 55 — Space Robotics

Kazuya Yoshida, Brian Wilcox, Gerd Hirzinger and Roberto Lampariello

In the space community, any unmanned spacecraft can be called a robotic spacecraft. However, Space Robots are considered to be more capable devices that can facilitate manipulation, assembling, or servicing functions in orbit as assistants to astronauts, or to extend the areas and abilities of exploration on remote planets as surrogates for human explorers.

In this chapter, a concise digest of the historical overview and technical advances of two distinct types of space robotic systems, orbital robots and surface robots, is provided. In particular, Sect. 55.1 describes orbital robots, and Sect. 55.2 describes surface robots. In Sect. 55.3, the mathematical modeling of the dynamics and control using reference equations are discussed. Finally, advanced topics for future space exploration missions are addressed in Sect. 55.4.

DLR ROKVISS disassembly

Author  Gerd Hirzinger, Klaus Landzettel

Video ID : 336

This video shows the disassembly of the ROKVISS robot from the ISS by Russian cosmonauts who brought the manipulator back to the DLR at the end of its mission in 2011. It was indeed very valuable to be able to analyze the robot on the ground, after it had spent seven years in space.