We are interested in adding actuation and more intelligence to desktop computers. We are working on robots that can manipulatate paper on a desktop and a vision system that allows a desk to keep track of its contents. In the future we plan to connect these systems: the desktop robots will keep the papers on the desk well organized.
So far we have built three robots for manipulating paper, and perhaps other objects, on a desktop. The first two robots look like a small car, with four wheels independently driven, none of them steered. It uses its wheels both for locomotion and manipulation. So far we have demonstrated the following modes: Translation mode, Dual diff drive mode, Inchworm mode, Cylinder rolling mode, and Scoot mode.
The third robot is also a mobile manipulator, but it uses a different approach. It can manipulate paper on a desktop, even when the surface is crowded with several sheets of paper. It lifts the sheet of paper, carries it to a designated location of the desk, and places it down on the desk. The robot has a tripod wheel base for locomotion, with the two rear wheels free and the front one powered and steered. The manipulator is a foot made sticky with a supply of removable tape. The foot travels on an eccentric path relative to the free rear wheels. In one direction, the foot emerges below the wheels, using the weight of the robot to stick the foot to the paper. As the eccentric motion continues, the foot moves behind the wheels, and lifts up the paper. The opposite motion detaches the foot from the paper, using the rear wheels to hold down the paper while the sticky foot is freed. A fourth actuator winds the tape supply reel. The result is a minimal desktop paper manipulator that can perform manipulation operations in the x, y, and z directions. This robot might be combined with the previously explained module to create a more versatile mobipulator.