RoBoats – MIT’s autonomous, shapeshifting boat robots

MIT’s autonomous robot boats (aka Roboats) can now shapeshift to form new structures. There are 2 types of roboats: workers and coordinators. This allows for self configuration and re-configuration as a group.

Roboat is a research project and collaboration between the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Roboat is a world-class investigation into the potential of autonomy to change our cities.

The workers have actuators to help the overall Roboat platform unit steer.

These units combine to form an overall platform, but the coordinators include GPS and a measuring tool for determining their relative pose and velocity.

The (Roboat) coordinators work together to figure out how they’re currently arranged, compare that to the target arrangement, and then issue orders about which ones stay in place, and which ones have to change position to achieve that new shape given their staring point.

The researchers working on the self-assembling roboats have devised an algorithm that manages all the planning involved in getting groups of the aquatic robots to unlatch from each other, then route a path that avoids any potential collisions, and then reconnect with other robots again in a new type of configuration.

The ultimate goal of making these the basis for truly utilitarian robots that can assemble and reassemble on-demand to create bridges, floating platforms, on-demand barges of any size and more, which would have obvious applications for reshaping urban environments with easy access to water.

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