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2019


Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks
Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, November 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

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arXiv [BibTex]

2019


arXiv [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

mg

[BibTex]


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Variational Autoencoders Recover PCA Directions (by Accident)

Rolinek, M., Zietlow, D., Martius, G.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2019, June 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The Variational Autoencoder (VAE) is a powerful architecture capable of representation learning and generative modeling. When it comes to learning interpretable (disentangled) representations, VAE and its variants show unparalleled performance. However, the reasons for this are unclear, since a very particular alignment of the latent embedding is needed but the design of the VAE does not encourage it in any explicit way. We address this matter and offer the following explanation: the diagonal approximation in the encoder together with the inherent stochasticity force local orthogonality of the decoder. The local behavior of promoting both reconstruction and orthogonality matches closely how the PCA embedding is chosen. Alongside providing an intuitive understanding, we justify the statement with full theoretical analysis as well as with experiments.

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arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


A Magnetically-Actuated Untethered Jellyfish-Inspired Soft Milliswimmer
A Magnetically-Actuated Untethered Jellyfish-Inspired Soft Milliswimmer

(Best Paper Award)

Ziyu Ren, T. W., Hu, W.

RSS 2019: Robotics: Science and Systems Conference, June 2019 (conference)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Elastic modulus affects adhesive strength of gecko-inspired synthetics in variable temperature and humidity

Mitchell, CT, Drotlef, D, Dayan, CB, Sitti, M, Stark, AY

In INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, pages: E372-E372, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC JOURNALS DEPT, 2001 EVANS RD, CARY, NC 27513 USA, March 2019 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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X-ray Optics Fabrication Using Unorthodox Approaches

Sanli, U., Baluktsian, M., Ceylan, H., Sitti, M., Weigand, M., Schütz, G., Keskinbora, K.

Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS, 2019 (article)

mms pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Microrobotics and Microorganisms: Biohybrid Autonomous Cellular Robots
Microrobotics and Microorganisms: Biohybrid Autonomous Cellular Robots

Alapan, Y., Yasa, O., Yigit, B., Yasa, I. C., Erkoc, P., Sitti, M.

Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Tailored Magnetic Springs for Shape-Memory Alloy Actuated Mechanisms in Miniature Robots
Tailored Magnetic Springs for Shape-Memory Alloy Actuated Mechanisms in Miniature Robots

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 35, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Animals can incorporate large numbers of actuators because of the characteristics of muscles; whereas, robots cannot, as typical motors tend to be large, heavy, and inefficient. However, shape-memory alloys (SMA), materials that contract during heating because of change in their crystal structure, provide another option. SMA, though, is unidirectional and therefore requires an additional force to reset (extend) the actuator, which is typically provided by springs or antagonistic actuation. These strategies, however, tend to limit the actuator's work output and functionality as their force-displacement relationships typically produce increasing resistive force with limited variability. In contrast, magnetic springs-composed of permanent magnets, where the interaction force between magnets mimics a spring force-have much more variable force-displacement relationships and scale well with SMA. However, as of yet, no method for designing magnetic springs for SMA-actuators has been demonstrated. Therefore, in this paper, we present a new methodology to tailor magnetic springs to the characteristics of these actuators, with experimental results both for the device and robot-integrated SMA-actuators. We found magnetic building blocks, based on sets of permanent magnets, which are well-suited to SMAs and have the potential to incorporate features such as holding force, state transitioning, friction minimization, auto-alignment, and self-mounting. We show magnetic springs that vary by more than 3 N in 750 $\mu$m and two SMA-actuated devices that allow the MultiMo-Bat to reach heights of up to 4.5 m without, and 3.6 m with, integrated gliding airfoils. Our results demonstrate the potential of this methodology to add previously impossible functionality to smart material actuators. We anticipate this methodology will inspire broader consideration of the use of magnetic springs in miniature robots and further study of the potential of tailored magnetic springs throughout mechanical systems.

pi

DOI [BibTex]


Magnetically Actuated Soft Capsule Endoscope for Fine-Needle Biopsy
Magnetically Actuated Soft Capsule Endoscope for Fine-Needle Biopsy

Son, D., Gilbert, H., Sitti, M.

Soft robotics, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers 140 Huguenot Street, 3rd Floor New …, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thrust and Hydrodynamic Efficiency of the Bundled Flagella
Thrust and Hydrodynamic Efficiency of the Bundled Flagella

Danis, U., Rasooli, R., Chen, C., Dur, O., Sitti, M., Pekkan, K.

Micromachines, 10, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Control What You Can: Intrinsically Motivated Task-Planning Agent

Blaes, S., Vlastelica, M., Zhu, J., Martius, G.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing (NeurIPS’19), pages: 12520-12531, Curran Associates, Inc., NeurIPS'19, 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a novel intrinsically motivated agent that learns how to control the environment in the fastest possible manner by optimizing learning progress. It learns what can be controlled, how to allocate time and attention, and the relations between objects using surprise based motivation. The effectiveness of our method is demonstrated in a synthetic as well as a robotic manipulation environment yielding considerably improved performance and smaller sample complexity. In a nutshell, our work combines several task-level planning agent structures (backtracking search on task graph, probabilistic road-maps, allocation of search efforts) with intrinsic motivation to achieve learning from scratch.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives
Autonomous Identification and Goal-Directed Invocation of Event-Predictive Behavioral Primitives

Gumbsch, C., Butz, M. V., Martius, G.

IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Voluntary behavior of humans appears to be composed of small, elementary building blocks or behavioral primitives. While this modular organization seems crucial for the learning of complex motor skills and the flexible adaption of behavior to new circumstances, the problem of learning meaningful, compositional abstractions from sensorimotor experiences remains an open challenge. Here, we introduce a computational learning architecture, termed surprise-based behavioral modularization into event-predictive structures (SUBMODES), that explores behavior and identifies the underlying behavioral units completely from scratch. The SUBMODES architecture bootstraps sensorimotor exploration using a self-organizing neural controller. While exploring the behavioral capabilities of its own body, the system learns modular structures that predict the sensorimotor dynamics and generate the associated behavior. In line with recent theories of event perception, the system uses unexpected prediction error signals, i.e., surprise, to detect transitions between successive behavioral primitives. We show that, when applied to two robotic systems with completely different body kinematics, the system manages to learn a variety of complex behavioral primitives. Moreover, after initial self-exploration the system can use its learned predictive models progressively more effectively for invoking model predictive planning and goal-directed control in different tasks and environments.

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arXiv PDF video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


The near and far of a pair of magnetic capillary disks
The near and far of a pair of magnetic capillary disks

Koens, L., Wang, W., Sitti, M., Lauga, E.

Soft Matter, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Multifarious Transit Gates for Programmable Delivery of Bio‐functionalized Matters
Multifarious Transit Gates for Programmable Delivery of Bio‐functionalized Matters

Hu, X., Torati, S. R., Kim, H., Yoon, J., Lim, B., Kim, K., Sitti, M., Kim, C.

Small, Wiley Online Library, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Multi-functional soft-bodied jellyfish-like swimming
Multi-functional soft-bodied jellyfish-like swimming

Ren, Z., Hu, W., Dong, X., Sitti, M.

Nature communications, 10, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]


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Welcome to Progress in Biomedical Engineering

Sitti, M.

Progress in Biomedical Engineering, 1, IOP Publishing, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Machine Learning for Haptics: Inferring Multi-Contact Stimulation From Sparse Sensor Configuration

Sun, H., Martius, G.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13, pages: 51, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Robust haptic sensation systems are essential for obtaining dexterous robots. Currently, we have solutions for small surface areas such as fingers, but affordable and robust techniques for covering large areas of an arbitrary 3D surface are still missing. Here, we introduce a general machine learning framework to infer multi-contact haptic forces on a 3D robot’s limb surface from internal deformation measured by only a few physical sensors. The general idea of this framework is to predict first the whole surface deformation pattern from the sparsely placed sensors and then to infer number, locations and force magnitudes of unknown contact points. We show how this can be done even if training data can only be obtained for single-contact points using transfer learning at the example of a modified limb of the Poppy robot. With only 10 strain-gauge sensors we obtain a high accuracy also for multiple-contact points. The method can be applied to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and physical sensor types, as long as training data can be obtained.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Mechanics of a pressure-controlled adhesive membrane for soft robotic gripping on curved surfaces
Mechanics of a pressure-controlled adhesive membrane for soft robotic gripping on curved surfaces

Song, S., Drotlef, D., Paik, J., Majidi, C., Sitti, M.

Extreme Mechanics Letters, Elsevier, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]


Graphene oxide synergistically enhances antibiotic efficacy in Vancomycin resistance Staphylococcus aureus
Graphene oxide synergistically enhances antibiotic efficacy in Vancomycin resistance Staphylococcus aureus

Singh, V., Kumar, V., Kashyap, S., Singh, A. V., Kishore, V., Sitti, M., Saxena, P. S., Srivastava, A.

ACS Applied Bio Materials, ACS Publications, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Review of emerging concepts in nanotoxicology: opportunities and challenges for safer nanomaterial design
Review of emerging concepts in nanotoxicology: opportunities and challenges for safer nanomaterial design

Singh, A. V., Laux, P., Luch, A., Sudrik, C., Wiehr, S., Wild, A., Santamauro, G., Bill, J., Sitti, M.

Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Multifunctional and biodegradable self-propelled protein motors
Multifunctional and biodegradable self-propelled protein motors

Pena-Francesch, A., Giltinan, J., Sitti, M.

Nature communications, 10, Nature Publishing Group, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms
Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms

Yigit, B., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1907.05856, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Mobile microrobots for active therapeutic delivery
Mobile microrobots for active therapeutic delivery

Erkoc, P., Yasa, I. C., Ceylan, H., Yasa, O., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

Advanced Therapeutics, Wiley Online Library, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Shape-encoded dynamic assembly of mobile micromachines
Shape-encoded dynamic assembly of mobile micromachines

Alapan, Y., Yigit, B., Beker, O., Demirörs, A. F., Sitti, M.

Nature, 18, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Microfluidics Integrated Lithography‐Free Nanophotonic Biosensor for the Detection of Small Molecules
Microfluidics Integrated Lithography‐Free Nanophotonic Biosensor for the Detection of Small Molecules

Sreekanth, K. V., Sreejith, S., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M., Lim, C. T., Singh, R.

Advanced Optical Materials, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Gecko-inspired composite microfibers for reversible adhesion on smooth and rough surfaces

Drotlef, D., Dayan, C., Sitti, M.

In INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, pages: E58-E58, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC JOURNALS DEPT, 2001 EVANS RD, CARY, NC 27513 USA, 2019 (inproceedings)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


ENGINEERING Bio-inspired robotic collectives
ENGINEERING Bio-inspired robotic collectives

Sitti, M.

Nature, 567, pages: 314-315, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London, England, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

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https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]


Peptide-Induced Biomineralization of Tin Oxide (SnO2) Nanoparticles for Antibacterial Applications
Peptide-Induced Biomineralization of Tin Oxide (SnO2) Nanoparticles for Antibacterial Applications

Singh, A. V., Jahnke, T., Xiao, Y., Wang, S., Yu, Y., David, H., Richter, G., Laux, P., Luch, A., Srivastava, A., Saxena, P. S., Bill, J., Sitti, M.

Journal of nanoscience and nanotechnology, 19, American Scientific Publishers, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Electromechanical actuation of dielectric liquid crystal elastomers for soft robotics

Davidson, Z., Shahsavan, H., Guo, Y., Hines, L., Xia, Y., Yang, S., Sitti, M.

Bulletin of the American Physical Society, APS, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Learning to Navigate Endoscopic Capsule Robots
Learning to Navigate Endoscopic Capsule Robots

Turan, M., Almalioglu, Y., Gilbert, H. B., Mahmood, F., Durr, N. J., Araujo, H., Sarı, A. E., Ajay, A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 4, 2019 (article)

pi

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2018


Swimming Back and Forth Using Planar Flagellar Propulsion at Low Reynolds Numbers
Swimming Back and Forth Using Planar Flagellar Propulsion at Low Reynolds Numbers

Khalil, I. S. M., Tabak, A. F., Hamed, Y., Mitwally, M. E., Tawakol, M., Klingner, A., Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, 5(2):1700461, 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Peritrichously flagellated Escherichia coli swim back and forth by wrapping their flagella together in a helical bundle. However, other monotrichous bacteria cannot swim back and forth with a single flagellum and planar wave propagation. Quantifying this observation, a magnetically driven soft two‐tailed microrobot capable of reversing its swimming direction without making a U‐turn trajectory or actively modifying the direction of wave propagation is designed and developed. The microrobot contains magnetic microparticles within the polymer matrix of its head and consists of two collinear, unequal, and opposite ultrathin tails. It is driven and steered using a uniform magnetic field along the direction of motion with a sinusoidally varying orthogonal component. Distinct reversal frequencies that enable selective and independent excitation of the first or the second tail of the microrobot based on their tail length ratio are found. While the first tail provides a propulsive force below one of the reversal frequencies, the second is almost passive, and the net propulsive force achieves flagellated motion along one direction. On the other hand, the second tail achieves flagellated propulsion along the opposite direction above the reversal frequency.

pi

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Deep Reinforcement Learning for Event-Triggered Control
Deep Reinforcement Learning for Event-Triggered Control

Baumann, D., Zhu, J., Martius, G., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the 57th IEEE International Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 943-950, 57th IEEE International Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), December 2018 (inproceedings)

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arXiv PDF DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Universal Custom Complex Magnetic Spring Design Methodology
Universal Custom Complex Magnetic Spring Design Methodology

Woodward, M. A., Sitti, M.

IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 54(1):1-13, October 2018 (article)

Abstract
A design methodology is presented for creating custom complex magnetic springs through the design of force-displacement curves. This methodology results in a magnet configuration, which will produce a desired force-displacement relationship. Initially, the problem is formulated and solved as a system of linear equations. Then, given the limited likelihood of a single solution being feasibly manufactured, key parameters of the solution are extracted and varied to create a family of solutions. Finally, these solutions are refined using numerical optimization. Given the properties of magnets, this methodology can create any well-defined function of force versus displacement and is model-independent. To demonstrate this flexibility, a number of example magnetic springs are designed; one of which, designed for use in a jumping-gliding robot's shape memory alloy actuated clutch, is manufactured and experimentally characterized. Due to the scaling of magnetic forces, the displacement region which these magnetic springs are most applicable is that of millimeters and below. However, this region is well situated for miniature robots and smart material actuators, where a tailored magnetic spring, designed to compliment a component, can enhance its performance while adding new functionality. The methodology is also expendable to variable interactions and multi-dimensional magnetic field design.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


 Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms
Programmable collective behavior in dynamically self-assembled mobile microrobotic swarms

B Yigit, , Y Alapan, , Sitti, M.

Advanced Science, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Collective control of mobile microrobotic swarms is indispensable for their potential high-impact applications in targeted drug delivery, medical diagnostics, parallel micromanipulation, and environmental sensing and remediation. Lack of on-board computational and sensing capabilities in current microrobotic systems necessitates use of physical interactions among individual microrobots for local physical communication and cooperation. Here, we show that mobile microrobotic swarms with well-defined collective behavior can be designed by engineering magnetic interactions among individual units. Microrobots, consisting of a linear chain of self-assembled magnetic microparticles, locomote on surfaces in response to a precessing magnetic field. Control over the direction of precessing magnetic field allows engineering attractive and repulsive interactions among microrobots and, thus, collective order with well-defined spatial organization and parallel operation over macroscale distances (~ 1 cm). These microrobotic swarms can be guided through confined spaces, while preserving microrobot morphology and function. These swarms can further achieve directional transport of large cargoes on surfaces and small cargoes in bulk fluids. Described design approach, exploiting physical interactions among individual robots, enables facile and rapid formation of self-organized and reconfigurable microrobotic swarms with programmable collective order.

pi

link (url) [BibTex]