Living control systems

Living control systems - Self-reconfiguring and assembling...

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THE CORNELL UNIVERSITY THREE-CUBE BEING By Jeffrey R. Harrow , Principal Technologist, The Harrow Group Traditionally, one common way to tell if something is alive is to see if it has the ability to reproduce. It can also, through mutation, improve its lot. But we may have to rethink those definitions as robotic devices take on similar capabilities. Just imagine the implications for future process control system design if the system components can replicate and alter themselves to the task immediately at hand. Science fiction, of course. Or is it…? Let’s explore some early work that may place some fascinating new tools into our design toolkit. According to the May 2005 issue of National Geographic , Cornell University scientists have created a set of two-inch robotic cubes that each contains a microprocessor (pre-programmed with “building knowledge,” a motor, sensors that note “contact and release” events, as well as the order in which the cubes are assembled, plus several electromagnets. According to the article, “The magnets selectively weaken and strengthen connections between other cubes, thereby determining where the structure breaks and joins.” These independent cubes, when initially joined into a three-cube “being” and provided with extra cubes at “feeding stations,” clone another three-cube “being” in just under one minute. (See figure, right.) Although these laboratory beasties are currently limited to making more of themselves, imagine the possibilities
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This note was uploaded on 03/16/2010 for the course INDUSTRIAL 12345 taught by Professor Mehmettas during the Spring '10 term at Harvard.

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Living control systems - Self-reconfiguring and assembling...

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