—The last few years have witnessed an increasinginterest in modular reconfigurable robotics for education,inspired robotic research, and space applications. This paperpresents the latest results of the Cube-M modular project.Firstly, an overview of the research achievements in modularrobot is given. Then the new modular robot Cube-M with onedegree of freedom, an improved version of the Y1 modularrobot, is presented. After that, the discussion focuses on therealization of a distributed hardware and control. Each modulehas embedded intelligent capabilities with an independentonboard controller to enable the realization of completelymodular design. In the end, a snake-like robot prototype is builtto confirm the feasibility of our design principle.
odular robotic systems feature multiple functions. Theyare very practical, flexibly extendible, reconfigurableand robust. The last few years have witnessed an increasinginterest in modular reconfigurable robotics for education ,inspired robotic research , and space applications . Theyare usually composed of multiple building blocks of arelatively small repertoire, with uniform docking interfacesthat allow the transfer of mechanical forces and moments,electrical power and communication throughout the wholerobot .A general classification of the different configurations of modular robots is essential for the study of their properties, but difficult to make. Some researchers established aclassification of modular robots in two groups: lattice andchain robots. The former kind arranges modules to form agrid, just like atoms forming complex 3D molecules or solids.Chain-robots are suitable for locomotion and manipulationsince the modular chains are like legs or arms. In this paper,our focus lies on the chain-format. In , 1D, 2D and 3Dchain robots are classified according to their topology.1D-chain robots are like snakes , worms , legs, arms or cords . They can modify their bodies to adopt different
This project is supported in part by the Research Foundation of Universityof Hamburg.H. X. Zhang is with the Institute of Technical Aspects of MultimodalSystems, Department of Computer Science, University of Hamburg,Vogt-Koelln-Strasse 30, 22527, Hamburg, Germany ( As the correspondingauthor, e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).J. González-Gómez is with the School of Engineering, UniversidadAutonoma de Madrid in Spain. Now he is a Ph.D. candidate on robotics and ateaching assistant at the Microelectronics, Control and Telematics SystemsLab (MCTS) of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.S. Y. Chen is with the College of Information Engineering, ZhejiangUniversity of Technology, Hangzhou, China.J. W. Zhang is with the Institute of Technical Aspects of MultimodalSystems, Department of Computer Science, University of Hamburg,Hamburg, Germany(e-mail: email@example.com).
shapes. They are suitable for passing though tubes, graspingobjects and moving in rough terrain. However, the pitch-connecting robots can only move forward or backward.Their movements can be generated by means of waves thattravel through the body of the robot from the tail to the head.Another kind of modular robot features yaw-connections.All the joints rotate around the yaw axes. In order to get propelled, these robots creep along a given curve path, but the body should slip in the tangential direction without anysliding in the direction normal to the body axis. A lot of research has been done on this kind of robots  . Other similar prototypes are SES-2 , WormBot  andAmphibot I .Though there have been many research achievements inthis field, the fact is that the known reconfigurable modular robots can only assume few configurations due to relativelylimited connecting and pose-adjusting mechanisms. For example, YaMoR  from the Ecole PolytechniqueFédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland consists of several compact segments which can connect using velcroswith one DOF. The modules can be connected one by one in acertain manner by hand. The reconfigurable modular robotMillibot train from Carnegie Mellon University in principlehas a similar connection design. Two coupling holes and two pins in the front and in the rear of each module respectivelyare designed specially for connecting two neighboring units.As a result, the DOF is only a pitching movement .Additionally, the intelligent technology in these prototypesis distinct. Modular robots should own enough intelligence to build different autonomous mobile robots easily and quickly.The system consists not only of a mechanical shell withseveral DOFs but also onboard power and the electrics.However, several real modular robots only have a mechanicalsystem, such as I(CES)-cubes from Carnegie MellonUniversity , and Telecube from Palo Alto ResearchLaboratory in U.S.A . For example, all modular prototypes built using Y1 have an outside electronic and power supply. The electronic part consists of an 8-bitmicrocontroller that supplies the Pulse Width Modulation(PWM) signals to the servos. The robots are connected to aPC by a serial port. The other modular prototypes aresemi-automatic or controlled by operators even if they have asimple controller onboard. The reason for this situation is thatin designing a new modular prototype, attention was toofocused on reconfiguration capability or methods of connection.Another problem in modular robots is that the research islimited to academia. It is hard to find a real application at the
Embedded Intelligent Capability of a Modular Robotic System
H. X. Zhang,
J. Gonzalez-Gomez, S.Y. Chen, J. W. Zhang,