The Omni-Pi-tent Modular Robot Platform
Omni-Pi-tent is a new self-reconfigurable modular robot platform with omnidirectional drive, genderless docking, a 2 Degree of Freedom hinge for 3D reconfiguration, a full suite of the onboard sensors needed for autonomous docking, and a Raspberry Pi central computer. Chain, lattice and mobile forms of reconfiguration are all possible. To date no other modular robot has combined all of these features. We are developing this robot for use in experiments as part of Robert H. Peck, Andy M. Tyrrell and Jon Timmis's Dynamic Self Repair project.
An omnidirectional drive enables a wide range of motions across the ground, this is especially useful for robots docking to an already moving structure, and for enabling structures to continue driving regardless of the orientation that robot modules may have been in when joining the structure.
Each robot has 4 docking ports, all of them genderless, active, and able to operate independently. Single-sided disconnection is possible for when a working robot needs to escape from a connection with another module which has suffered a failure disabling its ability to release the docking hooks on its side.
A high torque hinge allows one of these docking ports to both elevate/lower and to roll about its own axis, such an arrangement allows the formation of legged multi-module structures and enables pairs of robots to walk across the docking ports of a larger multi-robot structure.
Computation is done with an onboard Raspberry Pi, running a C program to interface with lower level microcontrollers which handle real-time aspects of Omni-Pi-tent's actuators, sensors and communication hardware.
Unlike many modular robots Omni-Pi-tent contains the full suite of sensors required for autonomous docking with other robots, these modules do not depend on external sensor systems and retain homogeneity by not requiring specialised sensor modules within the swarm.
The prototype has been produced with FDM 3D printing, a small number of custom PCBs and off-the-shelf electronic components. The first prototype module is presently undergoing final integration and testing, with very promising results from the sub-system tests performed so far. Further modules will be constructed soon and further images and videos posted here as testing continues. Project updates are also posted at http://omni-pi-tent.blogspot.com/