ROS in Modular Robotics: Modlab's CKBots

A few days ago I wrote about open-source robotics and mentioned the open-source Robot Operating System, ROS. I searched a bit to find out which organizations or research labs use this for their robotics research and found out about the Modular Robotics lab at University of Pennsylvania. These guys work on building modular robots and they have been able to do some really cool things with them.

By Modular Robots, I mean robots that are built from yet small robots called modules, i.e. each module is a robot with its own processor, sensors, motor etc. with the ability to attach with other modules. They have been using these modules, named CKBots to solve the difficult problems of:

Configuration recognition

This is an important challenge in modular robotics. When modules are attached together they should be able to figure out the way to move i.e. they should be able to recognize their current state and select a correct corresponding motion. With configuration recognition, they make this happen. Take a look at this video.

Self-assembly After Explosion

Remember, the mercury man from Terminator 2, how he could reassemble it after some severe damage. We are talking about something similar here, SAE. Take a look at this demo.

Modlab does a variety of other modular robotics research, and is a brilliant example of ROS capabilites. Recently, they have developed ROS packages that can be used to connect CKBots to other ROS systems. They have also created an open source repository, modlab-ros-pkg, for CKBot ROS users. They are also working on a "mini-PR2" made out of CKBots. The Mini-PR2, will be kinetically similar to PR2-Robots, built by Willow Garage.

Source: ROS News

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