Robot creates its own spray foam body then starts walking

first_imgA team at the University of Pennsylvania is experimenting with something called foam synthesis, the process of creating solid foam “body parts” from a compact spray package. It could create a new generation of self-forming robots.Students and researchers working out of the Modular Robotics Laboratory at the university looked at the fact that traditional robotics development was problem based. Meaning you had a group of experts eyeball a task to be done, then work with engineers to create a robot for that specific purpose.Development like that is static, and the robot is used just for that purpose and nothing else. What about situations where you cannot predict what problems need to be overcome? This is where the foam synthesis enters in, and the team’s creation of the Foambot .Without going into the deep technical speak that the team uses to explain the Foambot, it is a pretty simple thing to understand. Basically, there are 4 (or more) modules, plus a parent robot armed with spray foam. The operator can assess what shape the robot needs to be to fit the task and then use the foam spray to create the appropriately-shaped parts around each module. As the foam builds up it hardens, allowing for the creation of limbs that are connected to each other in a makeshift foam body. Combine that process with movement, and you have a robot that can change shape and then travel over or through different terrain and obstacles.The clever bit isn’t just the use of foam to create structures, though. The robot has software on board that analyses how the modules are positioned and where the joints are. It then uses that information to figure out how to make it move efficiently.This method allows the ultimate in flexibility since the robot can be designed on the fly, making it useful for the situation the operator is in. The video below shows the team creating both a four legged robot, and a worm/snake out of the hardened foam.More at University of Penn Modlab, via New Scientistlast_img read more