A new real-life transformer developed at Caltech’s Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) can reconfigure its body to achieve eight distinct types of motion and assess the environment to pick the most effective combination of motions to manoeuvre.
The new robot called M4 – short for Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot – can roll on four wheels, turn its wheels into rotors and fly, stand on two wheels like a meerkat to peer over obstacles, walk by using its wheels like feet, use two rotors to help it roll up steep slopes on two wheels, tumble, and do much more.
With such a wide range of capabilities, this robot can find applications in diverse areas, such as transporting injured people to a hospital to explore unknown planets, believe its developers at CAST.
M4 has been tested outdoors and navigated the terrain of Caltech’s campus in Pasadena, California. One of its key features is its ability to repurpose its appendages to wheels, legs, or thrusters.
The design of M4 was heavily influenced by nature. Its developers were inspired by how chukar birds use the flapping of their wings to get force while running up steep inclines, and how sea lions use their flippers for different types of locomotion on sea and land.
A paper announcing the new robot was published in Nature Communications on June 27. The bioinspired research was funded by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Science Foundation.