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Mit's Modular Robotic Chain Is Whatever You Want It to Be


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The MIT Media Lab calls ChainFORM a shape changing interface.

The ChainForm poke-able modular snake robot with blinky lights.

Credit: MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed ChainFORM, an evolution of last year's LineFORM multifunctional snake robot that introduces modularity to the system.

Each ChainFORM module includes touch detection on multiple surfaces, angular detection, and motor actuation via a single servo motor.

The MIT researchers also devised a system that can automatically determine how many modules there are, and how the modules are connected to each other, while preserving the capability for real-time input and output.

ChainFORM is tethered for power, and a master board that interfaces with a computer over USB port provides overall control. The power tether imposes a limit of 32 modules that can be used at once, unless power is connected from the other end.

Each individual module can exert 0.8 kg/cm of torque, which is enough to move small objects, and the researchers think the ChainFORM system can still be improved in numerous ways. For example, the researchers want to put displays on every surface, and increase their resolution. In addition, more joint configurations would permit connecting different modules and a way to split modules into different branches.

From IEEE Spectrum
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