Report Number: CS-TR-95-1536
Institution: Stanford University, Department of Computer Science
Title: Locomotion With A Unit-Modular Reconfigurable Robot
Author: Yim, Mark
Date: January 1995
Abstract: A unit-modular robot is a robot that is composed of modules that are all identical. Here we study the design and control of unit-modular dynamically reconfigurable robots. This is based upon the design and construction of a robot called Polypod. We further choose statically stable locomotion as the task domain to evaluate the design and control strategy. The result is the creation of many unique locomotion modes. To gain insight into the capabilities of robots like Polypod we examine locomotion in general by building a functional taxonomy of locomotion. We show that Polypod is capable of generating all classes of statically stable locomotion, a feature unique to Polypod. Next, we propose methods to evaluate vehicles under different operating conditions such as different terrain conditions. We then evaluate and compare each mode of locomotion on Polypod. This study leads to interesting insights into the general characteristics of the corresponding classes of locomotion. Finally, since more modules are expected to increase robot capability, it is important to examine the limit to the number of modules that can be put together in a useful form. We answer this question by investigating the issues of structural stability, actuator strength, computation and control requirements.