A team of researchers from CalTech, Northeastern University and NASA's JPL have created this Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (M4), which can transform to use several different forms of locomotion. It has four wheels, each of which contain rotors, and by changing their axes the M4 can pull some nifty tricks.
For instance, here it goes from driving to flying:
Here it uses two of its wheel-rotors to blow itself to a "standing" position, where it can then roll on two wheels:
Here it rolls up an impossibly steep incline by using a combination of the wheels in contact with the ground and the two rotors as propellors:
"The robot's flexibility of motion, coupled with artificial intelligence, allows it to choose what form of locomotion will be most effective based on the terrain ahead of it. Picture the M4 exploring an unfamiliar environment: it might start by rolling along on four wheels, which is its most energy-efficient mode. Upon reaching an obstacle like a boulder, it could stand on two wheels to peer over it for a clearer picture of the ground ahead. Then, if it saw a ravine or another feature that a wheeled robot could not traverse, it could reconfigure its wheels into rotors, fly over the ravine to the other side, and resume rolling along."
"'When encountering unknown environments, only robots that have the ability to repurpose their multi-modal components aided by artificial intelligence can succeed,' says Professor Mory Gharib, director of CalTech's Center of Autonomous Systems and Technologies."
The researchers reckon M4's multiple modes of travel would make it handy for applications including "search and rescue operations, space exploration, automated package handling in residential spaces, and digital agriculture, to name a few."
Full demonstration video below:
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