Sunday, February 25, 2007

Modularity, Resiliency, and the Superbots

There has been a growing interest in many fields about the idea of resiliency, that is, having the ability to adapt quickly when problems arise to create a new environment so one can survive and move on. This is becoming a priority with institutions such as the military, homeland security, businesses, the Internet and other computer networks (to survive cyberattacks, for example), and so on.

One way to do this is for an institution's structure to be modular. Modularity and modular networks are built around the idea that a business, for example, has different departments to do different jobs and services, and that those departments are loosely held together so that if one has issues, the others continue to function. One could also envision that key jobs and services (that are essential to the institution's survival) could be done, at least in part, by multiple modules so that if one has issues, there is some level of back-up and redundancy in order to keep the institution as a whole operating.

I just found it fascinating that these concepts are now being introduced and perfected in robotics, where a USC group is demonstrating that robotic modules can act independently, but when combined can communicate with each other, adapt, and perform multiple functions. There are numerous videos of these modular robots, called superbots, in action below:

Superbot Videos:
Caterpillar Motion
Walk Like a Human
Roll Across the Room
Climbing a Rope
Syncrhonized Autonomous Movement
Communication and Shape Shifting
Searching and Hooking Up
Climbing a Fishnet
Climbing a Hill
Sidewinder Motion
Butterfly Motion
More to Explore:
Real Robots: VOTE for Your Favorite
Image Gallery: Cutting-Edge Robots
All About Robots

Check them out, as we see physical systems becoming resilient.