Could shape-shifting rovers lead the next generation of space exploring robots? A collaborative team led by NASA Ames and the University of California, Berkeley is designing a spherical prototype modeled after tensegrity structures, in which isolated rods are held together by elastomers that allow them to easily change shape and absorb forces after impact. Study leader Alice Agogino explains.
"So these robots are spherical, and so they are amazing little walking spheres. And none of the compressive elements or the rods touch each other, so it gives us a structure that can take a lot of impact. We can make it have shape-shifting motion, which allows us to change the center of gravity to make it flop over and walk, basically."
Agogino says that the tensegrity prototype would be cheaper and more efficient than traditional rovers.
"We want rovers that are so small that could be packed so we could put multiple rovers in a space ship, and reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of space exploration."
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