Macrobot & Decibot

Skylar Tibbits & Center for Bits and Atoms

The Macrobot and Decibot projects were developed as part of a line of research conducted in the Center for Bits and Atoms, under a DARPA grant for Programmable Matter. Much of the research into programmable matter and reconfigurable robotics at that time were looking at increasingly smaller scales. Thus, we decided instead to develop very large-scale reconfigurable robots. The Macrobot and Decibot are large-scale reconfigurable chains that take in a single sequence of fold angles and can change shape on demand, from any 1D, 2D or 3D shape. The assembly instructions might look like [–120, 0,0, 120, 0, 0..], or a series of joint angles that are passed down a robotic chain. Each robotic unit reads the instructions, takes out the angle at its specified location and rotates to the corresponding angle until a sensor indicates it has reached the desired placement. The unit then passes the instruction sequence down the chain. This happens for any number of units in the chain and dictates the sequence to fold from one 3D shape into another. The Macrobot and Decibot were a platform to reconfigure structures at large-scales with arbitrary functionality and complexity. This research occupies a field of reconfigurable robotics with the ultimate vision of mechanical proteins, a universally programmable system for construction and shape-change.