Jun 22, 2009 video
Living organisms constantly adapt to their environment – for example to maintain homeostasis of factors such as temperature and blood pressure. Robots, on the other hand, are typically static, designed for a particular purpose rather than to adapt to changing situations. This video shows an example of a ‘modular robotic system’ — a self-balancing table — which, rather than being governed by a centralized computer, is composed of 12 independent, identically programmed “modules,” which cooperate through local communication.
“Each component is independent but they have a goal to maintain the table surface level,” explains Chih-Han Yu, a Ph.D. candidate in the Nagpal lab, “they need to cooperate with each other at all times.” This type of technology could be used for designing bridges and other structures that need to adapt to changes in orientation or perturbations, say, during an earthquake. (By the Nagpal lab)
Yu C, Willems F, Ingber DE and Nagpal R. Self-organization of environmentally-adaptive shapes on a modular robot. IEEE Intl. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), SanDiego, CA, Oct, 2007
Werfel J, Ingber DE and Nagpal R. Collective construction of environmentally-adaptive structures. IEEE Intl. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), San Diego, CA, Oct, 2007