NASA is considering an innovative design for planetary robots, in an effort to optimize the mobility when it comes to uneven terrain and reduce hardware payload that is required for safe landing. The next picture shows an illustration of the featured design which is inspired by the concept of Tensegrity, that is, by preserving integrity through tension.
The idea is to use rods that are connected with elastic wires and by regulating the tension among them, movement patterns arise that allow the structure to move at a desired direction. These patterns can emerge iteratively by optimizing certain criteria. At the same time, the elasticity of the cords allows the structure to sustain collisions upon landing on the surface or moving along it, by absorbing the energy of collision.
The following video illustrates the prototype in action and shows its full provisioned utility in simulation.
The project is lead by Vytas Sunspiral and Adrian Agogino from the Intelligent Systems Division of NASA' s Ames Research Center. Visit here for full article.