Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (M4) with Appendage Repurposing for Locomotion Plasticity Enhancement


Alireza Ramezani,

Assist. Prof., ECE, Northeastern University

Nov. 3, 2023 (Friday), 12:00 – 1:00 pm

Room 115, Building C

Abstract: Robot designs can take many inspirations from nature, where there are many examples of highly resilient and fault-tolerant locomotion strategies to navigate complex terrains by recruiting multi-functional appendages. For example, birds such as Chukars and Hoatzins can repurpose wings for quadrupedal walking and wing-assisted incline running. These animals showcase impressive dexterity in employing the same appendages in different ways and generating multiple modes of locomotion, resulting in highly plastic locomotion traits which enable them to interact and navigate various environments and expand their habitat range. The robotic biomimicry of animals’ appendage repurposing can yield mobile robots with unparalleled capabilities. Taking inspiration from animals, we have designed a robot capable of negotiating unstructured, multi-substrate environments, including land and air, by employing its components in different ways as wheels, thrusters, and legs. This robot is called the Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot, or M4 in short. M4 can employ its multi-functional components composed of several actuator types to (1) fly, (2) roll, (3) crawl, (4) crouch, (5) balance, (6) tumble, (7) scout, and (8) loco-manipulate. M4 can traverse steep slopes of up to 45 deg. and rough terrains with large obstacles when in balancing mode. M4 possesses onboard computers and sensors and can autonomously employ its modes to negotiate an unstructured environment. We present the design of M4 and several experiments showcasing its multi-modal capabilities.

Bio: Alireza Ramezani is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Northeastern University (NU). Before joining NU in 2018, he served as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech’s Division of Engineering and Applied Science. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under the supervision of Jessy Grizzle. Alireza’s research interests lie in the design of bioinspired mobile robots with nontrivial morphologies, involving high degrees of freedom and dynamic interactions with the environment, as well as the analysis and nonlinear, closed-loop feedback design of locomotion systems. His designs have been featured in several high-impact journals, including two cover articles in Science Robotics Magazine, listed among the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Science Magazine, and one research article in Nature Communications. Alireza has been awarded the Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-Changing (BIG) Idea Award from Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Program twice (in 2020 and 2022) for designing bioinspired locomotion systems to explore the Moon and Mars craters. Furthermore, in 2022, Northeastern’s team, under his leadership, won NASA’s top award, the ARTEMIS Award, at the BIG Idea Challenge Competitions. He is also the recipient of JPL’s Faculty Research Program Position. Alireza’s research has received widespread attention and has been covered by over 200 news outlets, including IEEE Spectrum, Space Magazine, Independent, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, National Geographic, CNN, NBC, Euronews, etc., since 2018.

Alireza Ramezani (Northeastern University): Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (M4) with Appendage Repurposing for Locomotion Plasticity Enhancement