Finding Inspiration from Nature to Create the Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (M4)
ECE Assistant Professor Alireza Ramezani’s research on “Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (M4) with appendage repurposing for locomotion plasticity enhancement” was published in Nature Communications.
Robot designs can take many inspirations from nature, where there are many examples of highly resilient and fault-tolerant locomotion strategies to navigate complex terrains by recruiting multi-functional appendages. For example, birds such as Chukars and Hoatzins can repurpose wings for quadrupedal walking and wing-assisted incline running. These animals showcase impressive dexterity in employing the same appendages in different ways and generating multiple modes of locomotion, resulting in highly plastic locomotion traits which enable them to interact and navigate various environments and expand their habitat range. The robotic biomimicry of animals’ appendage repurposing can yield mobile robots with unparalleled capabilities. Taking inspiration from animals, we have designed a robot capable of negotiating unstructured, multi-substrate environments, including land and air, by employing its components in different ways as wheels, thrusters, and legs. This robot is called the Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot, or M4 in short. M4 can employ its multi-functional components composed of several actuator types to (1) fly, (2) roll, (3) crawl, (4) crouch, (5) balance, (6) tumble, (7) scout, and (8) loco-manipulate. M4 can traverse steep slopes of up to 45 deg. and rough terrains with large obstacles when in balancing mode. M4 possesses onboard computers and sensors and can autonomously employ its modes to negotiate an unstructured environment. We present the design of M4 and several experiments showcasing its multi-modal capabilities.