Method for Robot to Create New Function by Uniting with Surrounding Objects
In this paper, we propose a robot that creates new functions by uniting with other objects. Such a robot can be applied to various situations by creating functions that fit to the situations. In this paper, we describe the elements of the proposed robot and development of two types of prototypes. The first prototype has an uniting function by gripping objects, and we conducted a demonstration of creating an automatic angle adjustment function on a projector using this prototype. The second prototype has an uniting function by using electromagnets and we conducted demonstrations of creating a function to handle object on a high place and creating automatic open and close functions for a door using this prototype.
KeywordsFunction creation Uniting Modular robotics Multipurpose robot
Mounting a lot of functions and mechanisms on robots for getting over diverse situations is not seems to be better as a method for implementing the versatile robots because the number of functions and mechanisms necessary to deal with general environments is enormous. We propose a robot which has minimum function and creates function when it is faced with situations to get over. For the purposes of this paper, the term creating function will be taken to mean a situation in that the robots become to be able to do something that cannot be done by the robots originally. These robots utilize surrounding objects to create functions. Particularly, we insist that the robot is able to create more diverse functions by not only using but also uniting with objects and making them be a part of their own body. Figure 1 shows examples of the robot creating functions by uniting with surrounding objects. In an example of creating function of handling an object on a high place (Fig. 1a), the robot itself cannot reach the object. Ordinary, we have to design a robot that has function to reach the target places, and that robot may be too large to work in narrow places. By uniting with an object like a pole, the robot can create function of reaching and handling the object, and even cast off the function when it becomes useless. In an example of creating automatic open and close function for a door (Fig. 1b), the robot makes the door automatic by uniting with the door. We can automate the door without large-scale construction works. Figure 1c shows an example of creating a robot arm by uniting of multiple robots and objects. It is assumed that the uniting of multiple robots and objects can create more complicated functions such as Fig. 1c. In this paper, we propose a robot that uniting with surrounding objects and creating new functions and describe prototypes of the robot and demonstrations. We conducted demonstrations of creating automatic angle adjustment function on a projector, function for handling object on a high place and automatic open and close function for a door as cases in which the proposed robots are effective. In Sect. 2, we describe the related works and make the significance of our study clear. In Sect. 3, we describe examples of the application of the robot that we proposed and consider the necessary functions of the robot. In Sect. 4, we describe the first prototype we made and demonstration of creating a function by using prototype and show the effectiveness of method we proposed. In Sect. 5, we describe the second prototype and demonstrations of creating function. We mention the conclusion and future works in Sect. 6.
2 Related Works
A large number of previous works for robots that performs diverse tasks have conducted. Crawler robots  and legged robots  can move on diverse terrains and overcome obstacles. Amphibious robots  can move not only on the ground but also in underwater. Snake-like robots  and hyper-redundant robots  are robots that have a large number of degrees of freedom and can move variously according to situations. In researches of humanoid , it is insisted that robots which have human-like shapes are applicable to various situations in human life . These studies have given the ability to get over diverse situations the robot congenitally, therefore it is hard for the robots to behave flexibly and get over the unexpected situations.
Some researchers insist the method that robots are adapted to situations by changing or creating its own function posteriorly. Reinforceable Muscle Humanoid  can change its power by changing number and position of actuators. In some studies, the method that robots extend its own functions by using tools has been insisted. These include research about humanoid using power tools  and research about humanoid that uses a box and board as tools to create steps and bridge  has been done. Modular robots [3, 5, 9, 11, 12] have been developed as robots that change their own functions posteriorly. Modular robots are robot systems consisted of robot modules that have comparatively simple mechanisms and functions and suggested to be versatile robot system since they can change their own shapes by changing combinations of modules.
In this paper, we propose robot that creates functions by uniting with surrounding objects as a robot that can be adapted to the various situations. Uniting not only with modules like modular robots, but also variable surrounding objects enable the robot to create more diverse functions and execute tasks.
3 Robot that Creates New Functions by Uniting with Surrounding Objects
The method we propose depends on presence or absence of proper objects in the surroundings. Especially the method is effective in situations that have many objects. For example, disaster sites that are filled with rubbles and home where there are various goods. When rescue or search robots work in disaster sites, some obstacles such as steps that have various heights or cracks in the ground that have various widths obstacles in many rubbles. Our concept makes it possible that robots break through the obstacles by uniting with surrounding rubbles and extending its own body and functions. Although proposed methods like modular robots [3, 12] effect similarly by constructing their own shapes from robot modules to be suitable to situations, the method that we propose is able to break through more various obstacles by using other objects. Furthermore, there are utilizes like that the robot units with a building that is damaged from disasters and reinforces it in order to prevent the collapse of it. Similarly, home robots have to manage various situations. There are many skills that robots should have such as skill to go upstairs, open doors or drawer and get objects on the top or under of a shelf when robots support human life. We consider that these can be solved by applying the method that we propose.
3.2 Necessary Factor of the Robot that Creates Function by Uniting with Surrounding Objects
The robot that creates functions by uniting with surrounding objects is able to supplement its poor ability. It means the robot itself does not need to have so many functions. And inconveniences may occur by increasing in size and mass of the robot result from implementations of extra functions. It seems to be suitable that we implement minimum functions for uniting with surrounding objects to the robot and create extra functions by uniting.
4 First Prototype and Demonstration
4.1 First Prototype
In order to show a concrete instance and effectiveness of creating functions by uniting, we have made the first prototype. Figure 2 shows the appearance of the first prototype. The first prototype is composed of aluminum sheet metals and 0.8 kg in weight. We describe the implementations of the three functions that we have explained in Sect. 3.
Function to Unite with Surrounding Objects
We have decided to implement the function to unite with other objects by gripping a projecting part of objects. This made it possible that the first prototype units and parts with objects at will. Figure 3 shows the state and mechanism for gripping a projection. The first prototype moves the crawlers as shown in Fig. 3 (a), and grips a projection of an object and units with the object. Figure 3 (b) shows the mechanism for gripping by crawlers. The rotational motion of the RC servo module is divided into right and left by the gears, and move the crawlers via link mechanisms.
Function to Move Objects
We implemented winding mechanism on the first prototype. This mechanism winds and can develop 2 kgf tension to the wire. We mounted a cover on the reel in order to prevent the wire from getting caught on the edge of the reel. The wire is made from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene called Dyneema and has features of low friction, flexible and high intensity.
Function to Move
We have implemented the function to move by using crawlers. By rotating the left and right crawlers independently, the first prototype can move to forward and backward, and turn. The crawlers are driven by continuous rotation RC servo module, and its maximum drive force is about 2 kgf at one side.
We have conducted a demonstration that we describe in next section by remote operation.
5 Second Prototype and Demonstrations
5.1 The Second Prototype
Figure 6 shows the second prototype we have made. The second prototype is composed of aluminum frames and 2.5 kg in weight. We describe the implementation of the three functions on the second prototype.
Function to unite with other objects
The second prototype units with objects by using electromagnets, unlike the first prototype. Using electromagnets has an advantage in uniting with various shapes because it does not need that objects have projections. Of course, electromagnets can unite only with irons or other magnets and we have to develop a method to unite with various object regardless of materials in the future. As Fig. 6 shows, electromagnets is implemented on under part of the second prototype and end of the wire in order to unite lower iron or magnet part of surrounding objects. The electromagnets have been made by rolling enameled wire around a pure iron core 1000 times and put them between yokes made of pure iron. The yokes make the loop of the magnetic line of force and make the adsorption power become stronger. The enameled wire’s diameter is 0.32 mm, the iron core’s diameter is 10 mm and length is 9 mm, and the yoke’s thickness is 2 mm. Each of the electromagnets arises about 4kgf adsorption power by applying a voltage of 11 V. We have equipped 11 electromagnets on the second prototype.
Function to Move Objects
We have implemented Dyneema wire and set a wire winding mechanism in front of the second prototype. By rotating the reel by a continuous rotation RC servo module and winding the wire, the mechanism can give 10 kgf tension to the wire. We have implemented another rotor to prevent tangling of wire when the wire winding mechanism ejects the wire. The second rotor rotates synchronize with the reel, and eject the wire without tangling of them.
Function to Move
We have implemented the function to move by using crawlers. By rotating the left and right crawlers independently, the second prototype can move to forward, backward and turn. Two continuous rotation RC servo modules move crawlers, and its maximum drive force is about 5 kgf at one side.
5.2 Demonstration of Creating a Function to Handle Object on a High Place
The first demonstration shows creating function of handling objects on a high place like shown in Fig. 1(a). In this demonstration, we have set a pass case as a target object and set the goal to move the target object to the goal zone. Although the second prototype itself could not reach to the target object, by uniting with a pole, the second prototype gets the function of reaching to the target object. The target object and the pole have had iron parts and it was possible to unite with the second prototype by electromagnets.
Figure 8 shows the first demonstration. At first, we have set the situation as shown in Fig. 8(1). We have set the target object on the high place to which the second prototype itself can’t reach. Figure 8(2) shows the uniting of the second prototype and the pole and then prototype has got the function of handling objects on the high place. The pole is 385 mm high and height of the second prototype has increased by 126% by uniting with it. In Fig. 8(3), the second prototype has moved the pole by ejecting the wire. Figure 8(4)–(6) shows the second prototype carrying the target object to the goal zone. Through the above process, the second prototype could create the function of handling objects on a high place. These processes take 152 s in total ((1)–(2) takes 42 s, (2)–(3) takes 15 s, (3)–(4) takes 30 s, (4)–(5) takes 40 s, (5)–(6) takes 25 s).
5.3 Demonstration of Creating Automatic Open and Close Function for Door
The second demonstration shows the uniting of a robot and a door and creation of the automatic open and close function of the door. We set iron plates on the door and the floor in order to unite with the second prototype.
Figure 9 shows the appearance of the demonstration. Figure 9(1) shows the setting at the start of the demonstration. At first, by the electromagnet on the end of the wire, the second prototype has united with the door as shown in Fig. 9(2). Then, the second prototype has ejected the wire and went backward to a suitable position. Then, the second prototype has united with the floor by electromagnets on under part of the body as shown in Fig. 9(3). Figure 9(4) shows that the second prototype opened the door by winding the wire.
By this, the second prototype was able to have opened the door as shown in Fig. 9(5) Then the second prototype has ejected the wire, and the door closed as shown in Fig. 9(6) work of the closer. Through these processes, the second prototype was able to create the automatic open and close function by uniting with the door. These processes take 201 s in total ((1)–(2) takes 13 s, (2)–(3) takes 52 s, (3)–(4) takes 50 s, (4)–(5) takes 48 s, (5)–(6) takes 38 s).
6 Conclusion and Future Works
In this paper, we proposed a robot that creates new functions by uniting with surrounding object. Such a robot can be applied to various situations by creating necessary functions. We made two prototypes of the concept and conducted the demonstrations of creating functions actually by using the prototypes. In the first demonstration, the first prototype has united with a model of a projector and created automatic angle adjustment function. In the second demonstration, the second prototype has united with a pole and created a function of handling objects on a high place. In the third demonstration, the second prototype has united with a door and created automatic open and close function of the door. Through these demonstrations, we have confirmed the effectiveness of our concept.
One of future works is the automation of the process in which robot unite with objects and creates function. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to develop a system that decides which object is best to create target function. Uniting between multiple robots and multiple objects is another future work. The robots would be able to create more diverse functions and be applicable to more diverse situations by achieving this. One example of this is to become a robot arm as shown in Fig. 1(c). In this paper, we describe the prototype that units with objects by using electromagnets, and the prototype can unite only with objects that have iron parts or magnet parts. In order to make the method that we proposed be effective, we have to develop the method to unite with more types of objects. For example, using vacuum suction or gluing might be effective to achieve this.
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