Self-Reconfigurable Robots/Systems and Applications Workshop
2005 Robotics Conference at MIT


MIT Strata Center, June 11, 2005

8:25AM: Welcome, Wei-Min Shen, USC/ISI

8:30-9:15AM:    Eric Klavins, University of Washington, Behavior synthesis in self-organizing robotics systems.
9:15-10:00AM:  Sotoshi Murata, Tokyo Institute of Technology
10:00-10:45AM: Robert C. Fitch, Heterogeneous Reconfiguration Planning
10:45-11:30AM: Wei-Min Shen, University of Southern California / ISI
11:30-12:15PM: Seth Goldstein, Carnegie Mellon University, Claytronics.

12:15-1:30PM: Lunch

1:30-2:15PM: Greg Chirikjian, John Hopkins University
2:15-3:00PM: Mark Yim, University of Pennsylvania, Reconfiguration Mechanism Design.
3:00-3:45PM: Daniela Rus and Keith Kotay, MIT, Generic Distributed Algorithms for Self-Reconfigurable Robots.
3:45-4:30PM: Kasper Stoy: University of Southern Demark, The ATRON Self-Reconfigurable Robots.
4:30-5:15PM:  Hod Lipton, Connell University, 3D Stochastic Reconfiguration of Modular Robots.
5:15-6:00PM:  Discussion for future self-reconfigurable robots;


Wei-Min Shen, University of Southern California
Mark Yim, University of Pennsylvania
Daniela Rus, Massachusettes Institute of Technology
Eric Klavins, University of Washington
Greg Chirikjian, John Hopkins University


Self-reconfigurable modular robots are metamorphic systems that can autonomously change their logical or physical configurations (such as shapes, sizes, or formations), as well as their locomotion and manipulation, based on the mission and the environment in hand. Because of their modularity, versatility, self-healing ability and low cost reproducibility, such robots provide a flexible approach for achieving complex tasks in unstructured and dynamic environments. They are well suited for applications such as search and rescue, reconnaissance, self-assembly, inspections in hazardous environments, and exploration in space and ocean. They also pose fundamental research challenges for robotics and other major branches of computer science, mechatronics and control theory.

The challenges are due to the dynamic topology of the network of modules, the limited resource (power, size, torque, precisions, etc.) of individual modules, the difficulties in global synchronization, the preclusion of centralized decision makers, and the unreliability of communication among modules. This workshop will present the recent progress in the research community for these challenging tasks and their real-world applications in space and other related fields. We will present distributed control architecture and algorithms, discuss the ability of plug-and-play mechatronics parts and arbitrarily reshuffling modules (body-parts) in systems, discuss the recent theoretical development for self-reconfigurable systems, analyze the hardware/software challenges we face to make these robots for multifunctional applications, and outlook the future of this exciting research topic.

In particular, we will have the following sub-areas and topics as the focused discussion topics. These areas include, but not limited to:

1. We will describe recent results in developing distributed algorithms for self-reconfiguring robots that use self-reconfiguration for locomotion and for shape synthesis. We will also describe our recent results in automatically synthesizing such controllers.
2. Self-Diagnosis, Self-Repair and Self-Replication in Robotic Systems Very little attention has been paid to the subject of self-diagnosis, self-repair and self-replication in the robotics community, and this may be one reason why fully autonomous robots have not yet found the same range of applications as their remote-controlled counterparts. We are therefore investigating the following:
(2.1) Development of design principles for easy assembly/disassembly of robots by robots of the same kind;
(2.2) Characterization of minimal capabilities required of each robot in a collection of given size;
(2.3) Definition of a finite set of behaviors, or default sequence of actions, for each robot to perform during self-diagnosis and self-repair;
(2.4) Constructing and experimenting with a prototype (``toy model'') system; These ideas will be demonstrated on a particular physical system in the talk.
3. We describe a formal approach to modeling self-organization based on graph grammars and discuss distributed behavior synthesis algorithms within this context. We then show how to set the model in the context of statistical mechanics so that "assembly yields" and "most likely behaviors" can be predicted. We demonstrate the approach with a modular robot system of "programmable parts" that are randomly mixed on an air table and that are capable of binding to and detaching from each other. Using our approach, we can direct the system to form global assemblies and processes. We may also include other work with MEMs self assembly and in DNA self assembly.
4. We will address the issues and trade-offs in design of self-reconfiguring systems, using examples from the self-reconfiguring robot community. Issues include: architectures, docking mechanisms, enumeration of configurations, ease of programming, ease of design, actuation, manufacturability and robustness.


We will have short presentations by participants, but mostly discussions and interactions for the above topics. We anticipant a half-day workshop will be sufficient, but if there is a big response, we can make it a full-day workshop.
In the past, similar workshops were conducted in Japan 10/2004 in conjunction with ICRA2004 in Japan, and in Korea in 8/2001 for IROS2001.


People from NASA (JPL, Ames, and other centers), AFOSR and AFRI on self-reconfigurable hardware systems, Universities that involves self-reconfigurable robots and systems (such as MIT, UT, USC, …), companies (such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, …), ARO on self-healing systems, … International researchers such as Demark’s ATRON project, Japan’s MTRON project, China’s reconfigurable robotics group, … More specifically, Cornell's stochastic self-reconfiguration group (Lipson), EU's self-reconfiguration effort (including Nilsson, Mondova (sp?),.. ), Japan's (Fukuda, Asama, Yoshida, others...) Nanyang U. self-reconfiguration group Singapore (chen), Canada's modular robotics efforts at U Toronto (Goldenberg)...

Why is the topic interesting?
Research in self-reconfiguration and related topics have been active in academic for many years now, and it is only recently that the results of these research are beginning to be used and applied to serious real-world applications such as sustainable space exploration, homeland security, and others. This workshop comes at the right time because many researchers are seeing the values of the field, and many companies are beginning to investigate their resources, and because more and more people are believe that this is the future of large systems to be constructed reliably and economically.

Target Groups
University researchers, industrial, space exploration, theoretical people in computer science.


Wei-Min Shen, University of Southern California
Mark Yim, University of Pennsylvania
Daniela Rus, Massachusettes Institute of Technology
Eric Klavins, University of Washington
Greg Chirikjian, John Hopkins University

Main Contact

Wei-Min Shen - Director, Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory
Associate Director, USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems
University of Southern California
4676 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

Phone: 310 - 448 - 8710
Fax: 310 - 822 - 0751