Video Shows Real-Life ‘Transformers’ Robots That See, Think, and Transform

By Nick Lucchesi

A team of roboticists have taken another step toward the inevitable future where real-life Transformers move among us.

New research on modular, autonomous robots was published Wednesday that shows how robots can see, think, and decide to transform their shape based on the challenge facing them.

A six-person team published this research paper — “An Integrated System for Perception-Driven Autonomy with Modular Robots” — in the journal Science Robotics. The researchers hail from Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the key areas of how the robot does what it does, in the words of the researchers.

“A lot of people have seen this in movies, if you’ve seen like Transformers or Big Hero 6, robots that can change their shape,” says Mark Yim, Professor, University of Pennsylvania, of the modular robots revealed this week. “We’ve had lots of examples of robots that can do things like walking or climbing stairs … but all of those things were done separately. This is the first time that we’ve actually had a system that could do all of this stuff autonomously.”

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