Soft Modular Robotic Cubes and Embryogenesis


The goal of this project is to explore the potential of soft modular robots to mimic some of the fundamental cell behaviors observed during embryogenesis; the initial shaping stage of the living embryo. We are also interested in finding practical applications of soft modular robots. For example, we have implemented soft modular grippers, and soft modular arrangements with the capability of moving inside narrow spaces. 

Cell behaviors during morphogenesis Fabrication of soft modular robotic cube
Examples of some fundamental cell behaviors that take place during morphogenesis. During this process living cells are able to expand, contract, migrate, connect and disconnect from each other as well as to exhibit various transformations that give rise to complex structures and organs.
Soft modular robotic cubes are fabricated with soft lithography. Magnets are inserted on each face of the cube. The resulting hollow cube is then actuated by computer controlled inflation.

Simple coordinated inflation of soft modules allows self-reconfiguration to take place on different configurations. For example the same group of robots can change its configuration from an initial "E" shape to a final "F" shape. By modifying the actuation sequence one can achieve different final states, for example a final "C" shape can be obtained from the same initial "E" configuration.

Self reconfiguration of soft modular robots Self reconfiguration soft modular robot E to C transition
A group of soft modular robots executing a self reconfiguring transition from the "E" shape to the final "F" shape.
A group of soft modular robots executing a self reconfiguring transition from the "E" shape to the final "C" shape.



The following people are currently involved in the project:


Andrea Vergara,  Yi-Sheng Lau, Joakin Ugalde, Edgardo Ramirez, Harold Valenzuela.


Juan Cristóbal Zagal (Director)
Ricardo Franco Mendoza
Daniel Deckler

Related publication:

Vergara, A., Lau, Y. S., Mendoza-Garcia, R. F., & Zagal, J. C. (2017). Soft Modular Robotic Cubes: Toward Replicating Morphogenetic Movements of the Embryo. PloS one, 12(1), e0169179.


jczagal at