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Volume 21 Issue 10 - Publication Date: 1 October 2002
 
Special issue on International Symposia on Experimental Robotics 2000
 
A Self-Reconfigurable Modular Robot : Reconfiguration Planning and Experiments
 
Eiichi Yoshida, Satoshi Murata, Akiya Kamimura, Kohji Tomita, Haruhisa Kurokawa and Shigeru Kokaji Distributed System Design Research Group, Intelligent Systems Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial, Science and Technology (AIST), 1-2-1 Namiki, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki 305-8564, Japan
 
In this paper we address a reconfiguration planning method for locomotion of a homogeneous modular robotic system and we conduct an experiment to verify that the planned locomotion can be realized by hardware. Our recently developed module is self-reconfigurable. A group of the modules can thus generate various three-dimensional robotic structures and motions. Although the module itself is a simple mechanism, self-reconfiguration planning for locomotion presents a computationally difficult problem due to the many combinatorial possibilities of modular configurations. In this paper, we develop a two-layered planning method for locomotion of a class of regular structures. This locomotion mode is based on multi-module blocks. The upper layer plans the overall cluster motion called flow to realize locomotion along a given desired trajectory; the lower layer determines locally cooperative module motions, called motion schemes, based on a rule database. A planning simulation demonstrates that this approach effectively solves the complicated planning problem. Besides the fundamental motion capacity of the module, the hardware feasibility of the planning locomotion is verified through a self-reconfiguration experiment using the prototype modules we have developed.
 
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1
A novel self-reconfigurable modular robot has been developed in National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan. The modular robot is called MTRAN (Modular TRANSformer). Although it has a simple mechanism, but a collection of the MTRAN modules can configure itself into various three-dimensional robotic structures. The video describes its mechanism (Fig.1 - Fig.3) and basic motions including forward-roll motions in Fig. 4. (11 MB)
2
Using the locomotion planner described in the paper, the cluster motion along a desired trajectory can be generated. The movie corresponds to the simulation shown in Fig. 15 in the paper. Some motions are executed in parallel in this simulation. (5.6 MB)
3
The video shows an experiment of block-based cluster motion using eight MTRAN modules. This is the video from which the still pictures are taken in Fig. 19 in the paper. The video is 1.5 times faster than actual speed.
4
To show versatility and smooth reconfiguration capacity of MTRAN, another example of self-reconfiguration from a crawler-type robot to a 4-legged walking robot is provided. Nine modules are used in this experiment and the video is 1.5 times faster than actual speed.
 
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