MILLIMOBILE – SELF-DRIVING ROBOT
Researchers at the University of Washington have now created MilliMobile, a tiny, self-driving robot powered only by surrounding light or radio waves. Moving robots demands a lot of energy, and batteries, the typical power source, limit lifetime and raise environmental concerns.
Equipped with a solar panel-like energy harvester and four wheels, MilliMobile is about the size of a penny, weighs as much as a raisin and can move about the length of a bus (30 feet, or 10 meters) in an hour even on a cloudy day.
The robot can drive on surfaces such as concrete or packed soil and carry three times its own weight in equipment like a camera or sensors. It uses a light sensor to move automatically toward light sources so it can run indefinitely on harvested power.
They took inspiration from ‘intermittent computing,’ which breaks complex programs into small steps, so a device with very limited power can work incrementally, as energy is available.
These robots are also able to steer themselves, navigating with onboard sensors and tiny computing chips. To demonstrate this, the team programmed the robots to use their onboard light sensors to move towards a light source.