Robotic Materials

We envision that materials in the future will be embedded with many small smart devices such as sensors, actuators, computing and communication that will enable these materials to morph their physical properties, such as shape, volume, opacity, porosity, permeability, elasticity/stiffness, strength, etc.  Future ubiquitous computing environments will be filled with distributed embedded computing systems.  We call such materials smart materials, also known as computational materials or robotic materials.

A key direction of interest to us is making these robotic materials wireless in terms of their power and communication.  Wires bring many disadvantages, such as weight, stiffness, breakage, cost, etc.  Wireless powering of robotic materials will free these materials to morph their physical properties without such constraints. 
We have published recent work on wireless robotic materials at:
  • Nikolaus Correll, Prabal Dutta, Richard Han, Kris Pister, "Wireless Robotic Materials", ACM SenSys 2017, Article 24,  6 pages,doi>10.1145/3131672.3131702.

For more on computational materials, see the recent Workshop on Robotic Materials held at CU Boulder on March 2017.

To control such smart materials, we are investigating distributed pattern recognition algorithms that can recognize gestures using a network of distributed simple sensors and actuators - forming a Smart Wall.  We have thus far built a multicast protocol that self-organizes islands of sensor/actuators who recognize the same gesture. 
We have simulated and implemented this algorithm in an actual smart wall.  More details can be found at the Correll Lab's Web site.  This work has been published as follows:

The "Holodeck" Project in Cyber-Physical Systems:

Our idea is to actuate a physical array or grid of moving pixels, which we call moxels, using Graphics Processing Units, or GPUs.  We find that this GPU-based solution is cost-effective and scalable, such that large grids could be controlled to render physical surfaces in a Holodeck-like environment.  Moreover, our GPU-based approach allows us to leverage existing graphics rendering software technology to assist in the physical rendering.  However, non-trivial modifications need to be made to the graphics rendering software.

An early version of this work was published at the 1st Workshop on Cyber-Physical Systems (WCPS), "
Towards Cyber-Physical Holodeck Systems Via Physically Rendered Environments (PRE’s)".

The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony featured a version of our moxel technology on the grand scale (right top picture), but we admit that the moxels were human actuated instead of GPU actuated (right bottom picture).

                                        boxes 1
Olympic boxes 2

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