SW-4-4-3: Biomimetic Millirobots

Prof. Ron Fearing, University of California Berkeley, San Francisco, USA


Decimeter to centimeter-scale robots will create the opportunity to manipulate, sense, and explore a wide range of environments with greatly reduced cost and expanded capabilities. In many applications, the capability of millirobots depends on three factors: 1) intelligence, 2) mobility, and 3) multiplicity. For intelligent macroscale robots, one can almost say that planning, sensing, computation, and control capabilities are available off-the-shelf. However, at the centimeter and smaller scale, we are finding more cases where intelligent behavior does not depend on explicit algorithms, but arises from the intrinsic mechanics. The study of small animals such as flies and lizards has lead to ``implicit intelligence'' principles which can be applied to biomimetic millirobots. There remain significant challenges for millirobots in creating all-terrain mobility, and low production costs for multiplicity. However, there are advantages to this size scale for novel low-cost fabrication methods.

Speaker Biography

Ronald Fearing is a professor in the Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Univ. of California, Berkeley, which he joined in Jan. 1988. He was Vice-Chair for Undergraduate Matters from 2000-2006. His current research interests are in milli-robotics, including flying and crawling milli-robots, parallel nano-grasping (gecko adhesion), micro-assembly, and rapid prototyping. He has worked in tactile sensing, teletaction, and dextrous manipulation. He has a PhD from Stanford in EE (1988) and SB and SM in EECS from MIT (1983). He received the Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1991, and is the co-inventor on 12 US patents.