Reconfigurable Robot Control Using Flexible Coupling Mechanisms

Robotics: Science and Systems(2023)

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Reconfigurable robot swarms are capable of connecting with each other to form complex structures. Current mechanical or magnetic connection mechanisms can be complicated to manufacture, consume high power, have a limited load-bearing capacity, or can only form rigid structures. In this paper, we present our low-cost soft anchor design that enables flexible coupling and decoupling between robots. Our asymmetric anchor requires minimal force to be pushed into the opening of another robot while having a strong pulling force so that the connection between robots can be secured. To maintain this flexible coupling mechanism as an assembled structure, we present our Model Predictive Control (MPC) frameworks with polygon constraints to model the geometric relationship between robots. We conducted experiments on the soft anchor to obtain its force profile, which informed the three-bar linkage model of the anchor in the simulations. We show that the proposed mechanism and MPC frameworks enable the robots to couple, decouple, and perform various behaviors in both the simulation environment and hardware platform. Our code is available at . Video is available at .
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