STORM consists of reconfigurable and modular smaller mobile robots that can assemble into larger structures in order to scale up locomotion and manipulation capabilities. STORM contains locomotion modules and manipulation modules, each with individual locomotion capabilities and individual mechanisms with the ability to dock together in a larger configuration depending upon the terrain layout or the requirements of the assigned task. Docking interface points are available on the modules in order to enable this morphological reconfiguration between the modules.
Modular robots offer versatility and functional advantages over traditional fixed-structure robots. Their ability to reconfigure their morphology by rearranging their inter connectivity enables them to adapt to environmental changes. For example, a modular robot may be capable of modifying its configuration from a legged to a snake or rolling robot depending on the terrain. Modularity and re-configurability also enable robots to perform tasks a single module or a fixed-structure robot is unable to perform. The broad utility that modular robots can provide promises a redefinition of the role they play in society, most notably in enabling the co-integration of mobile robots in urban environments alongside humans.
STORM can be explained through a scenario. "We would design smaller mobile robots that can move around very effectively, like agents. They would be scattered all around, say in a collapsed building after an earthquake, and they would act as sensor agents collecting information through cameras and sensors, which they would share through wireless communication. When a need arises to actually act on the environment-for example, one of the robots finds a person in the rubble-then it calls the other robots, which swarm in from various locations and they self-assemble into the hybrid configuration needed for a particular task. We are pioneering this at GW.
To watch this scenario click here
A sample scenario employing a central manipulation and two locomotion modules is shown in the animation below: