This robot fly, capable of lift-off, was created using layered micromachined composite structures. With a tiny carbon fiber body and wings made of thin plastic sheets, the fly was inspired by the way real insects move. See video...
The most advanced flying machine on earth is less agile than an ordinary housefly. Likewise, no group of robots -- not even the most sophisticated -- can work independently and toward a common goal as well or as efficiently as a group of social insects.
Scientists at the Wyss Institute are developing entirely new types of robotic devices, such as tiny autonomous flying machines -- literally shaped like houseflies -- that could pollinate crops while the causes of bee colony collapse are identified and solved. The Bioinspired Robotics team is also looking at social insects to learn what they can teach in programming cooperation and adaptation among individual robots and how global self-repair and adaptation can be achieved through simple local behaviors.
Inspired by an embryo
An example of a self-organizing, modular robotic system: a self-balancing table. Learn more...
Virtually every time an egg is fertilized by a sperm, it divides and grows to form an embryo without instructions or a blueprint, and if injured, it self heals. Each cell has the same genome and is programmed to sense and respond only to local cues, yet each time the cells grow and assemble into a healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes. These cells build tissues and organs through collective behavior, much like ants cooperate with each other to build an ant colony. Institute scientists are devising computer algorithms inspired by these behaviors to control groups of robots that adapt and respond to changes in their environment like living organisms. Robotic devices have been engineered to maintain balance in a shifting world and could someday be used to construct buildings that remain level during earthquakes. Learn more...
A self-folding sheet of 'Programmable Matter,' capable of reconfiguring into multiple shapes; in this case a 'boat' and a 'plane.' Learn more...
Another focus is "Soft Robotics," which utilizes novel combinations of materials -- natural and artificial -- and new control paradigms for autonomous systems that are highly morphable and resilient. Going beyond traditional materials enables new capabilities not available to more typical robots. Desirable features include dramatic deformations, effective locomotion, and tunable physical properties. Our focus is on the combination of design and smart materials to enable new classes of artificial muscles, cell-inspired algorithms for coordination of composite, multi-phase materials, and design tools for highly compliant robots.
Initial target applications
- Bioinspired robots for construction and sustainability
· Robots that build bridges and structures autonomously
· Swarms of flying insect robots to assist dwindling bee populations
- Bioinspired robots for inspection and search
· Conformable robots for inspection of narrow tubes and pipes for medical and industrial applications
· Autonomous microrobots for clinical diagnosis and repair
· Distributed robots for search and rescue
· Environmental monitoring by highly agile autonomous robots
- Robots that adapt and respond to changes in environment
· Self-balancing walkways and building structures
· Adaptive and responsive furniture
· Deformable robots that conform, sense, and locomote in complex terrains