Entry Date:
December 1, 2020


Principal Investigator Daniela Rus

Co-investigator Wojciech Matusik

Project Start Date September 2020

MIT researchers have automated and optimized robot design with a system called RoboGrammar. The system creates arthropod-inspired robots for traversing a variety of terrains. Pictured are several robot designs generated with RoboGrammar.

Choosing the right shape will be vital for your robot’s ability to traverse a particular terrain. And it’s impossible to build and test every potential form. But now an MIT-developed system makes it possible to simulate them and determine which design works best.

You start by telling the system, called RoboGrammar, which robot parts are lying around your shop -- wheels, joints, etc. You also tell it what terrain your robot will need to navigate. And RoboGrammar does the rest, generating an optimized structure and control program for your robot.

The advance could inject a dose of computer-aided creativity into the field. RoboGrammar can be described as a way to come up with new, more inventive robot designs that could potentially be more effective.

Robots are built for a near-endless variety of tasks, yet they all tend to be very similar in their overall shape and design. The research team speculated that more innovative design could improve functionality. So they built a computer model for the task -- a system that wasn’t unduly influenced by prior convention. And while inventiveness was the goal.

Choosing the best robot design requires controlling each robot’s movements and evaluating its function.. The controller is the set of instructions that brings those structures to life, governing the movement sequence of the robot’s various motors. The team developed a controller for each robot with an algorithm called Model Predictive Control, which prioritizes rapid forward movement.