IIT Madras researchers develop multimodal robot with industrial and field applications

KOLKATA: IIT Madras researchers have developed a multimodal robotic system with good grasping, manipulation and locomotion abilities for use in industrial and field applications. Called the ‘GraspMan,’ it consists a pair of graspers which provides morphological adaptation, enabling it to conform to the geometry of the object being grasped. This allows the grasper to hold objects securely and manipulate it much like the human hand.

A prototype of the grasper has been fabricated at the Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras, and the experimental results confirm manipulation capabilities of the robot. Two such graspers, equipped with the robotic platform provides behavioural adaptation, which is the capability to change the locomotion behaviour to adapt to the environment.

The research is being led by Prof Asokan Thondiyath, Robotics Laboratory, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras with his student and Research Scholar Nagamanikandan Govindan.

Explaining the rationale behind their efforts to develop a simple, multipurpose robotic platform for field and service applications, Prof Asokan Thondiyath said, “The motivation behind this research is to realise a robot with a minimalistic design that can overcome the need for task-specific robots that are capable of navigating and manipulating across different environments without increasing the system complexity.”

This new class of robot developed by the IIT Madras team has various industrial applications such as pipe climbing and inspection, which involves climbing, holding and assembling, all of which are possible in their design. Machines used in search-and-rescue operations and locomotory applications will also benefit from this robotic platform.

Robots have undergone various advancements in design, intelligence, and other aspects in the past decades, but further improvements in mobility, manoeuvrability, and manipulation capability are required to enable actions close to natural motion. Current robotic platforms, although fascinating in their scope, are limited in their tasks because of the complexity involved in enhancing versatility.

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