SEMINAR ON Fractal Robots

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1. INTRODUCTION
The birth of every technology is the result of the quest for
automation of some form of human work. This has led to many inventions
that have made life easier for us. Fractal Robot is a science that
promises to revolutionize technology in a way that has never been
witnessed before.
The principle behind Fractal Robots is very simple. You take some
cubic bricks made of metals and plastics, motorize them, put some
electronics inside them and control them with a computer and you get
machines that can change shape from one object to another. Almost
immediately, you can now build a home in a matter of minutes if you

had enough bricks and instruct the bricks to shuffle around and make a
house! It is exactly like kids playing with Lego bricks and making a
toy hose or a toy bridge by snapping together Lego bricks-except now
we are using computer and all the work is done under total computer
control. No manual intervention is required. Fractal Robots are the
hardware equivalent of computer software.
1.1 What are Fractals?
A fractal is anything which has a substantial measure of exact or
statistical self-similarity. Wherever you look at any part of its body
it will be similar to the whole object.
1.2 Fractal Robots
A Fractal Robot physically resembles itself according to the
definition above. The robot can be animated around its joints in a
uniform manner. Such robots can be straight forward geometric
patterns/images that look more like natural structures such as plants.
This patented product however has a cubic structure. The figure below
shows a collection of such cubes.
Fractal Robots start at one size to which half
size or double size cubes can be attached and to each of these half
size/double size cubes can be attached respectively adinfinitum. This
is what makes them fractal. So a fractal cube can be of any size. The
smallest expected size is between 1000 and 10,000 atoms wide. These
cubes are embedded with computer chips that control their movement.
Thus they can be programmed to configure themselves into any shape.
The implication of this concept is very powerful. This concept can be
used to build buildings, bridges, instruments, tools and almost
anything else you can think of. It can be done with hardly any manual
intervention. These robots can assist in production and manufacture of
goods thus bringing down the manufacturing price down dramatically.
2. FRACTAL ROBOT MECHANISM
2.1 Simple Construction details
Considerable effort has been taken in making the robotic cubes as
simple as possible after the invention has been conceived. The design
is such that it has fewest possible moving parts so that they can be
mass produced. Material requirements have been made as flexible as
possible so that they can be built from metals and plastics which are
cheaply available in industrialized nations but also from ceramics and
clays which are environmentally friendlier and more readily available
in developing nations.
The robotic cubes are assembled from face plates which have been
manufactured and bolted to a cubic frame as illustrated in figure 1.
The cube therefore is hollow and the plates have all the mechanisms.
Each of these face plates have electrical contact pads that allow
power and data signals to be routed from one robotic cube to another.
The plates also have 45 degree petals that push out of the surface to
engage the neighbouring face that allows one robotic cube to lock to
its neighbour. The contact pads could be on the plates themselves or
be mounted separately on a purpose built solenoid operated pad as
shown in figure 2.
The contact pads are arranged symmetrically around four edges to
allow for rotational symmetry. These contacts are relayed out and only
transmit power when required to do so. If they are operating
submerged, the contact pads can be forced into contact under pressure
because of the petals, removing most of the fluid between the gaps
before transmitting power through them.
The contact pads are not shown in figure 4. What is shown are four v
shaped grooves running the length of the plate that allow the petals
to operate so that the cubes can lock to each other and also each
other using its internal mechanisms.
The cubes have inductive coupling to transmit power and data signals.
This means that there care no connectors on the surface of the robotic
cube. If the connectors are used, wiring problems may follow. Unlike
contact pads, inductive coupling scale very well.
2.2 Movement Mechanism
To see the internal mechanisms, we need a cross section of the plate
as illustrated in figure 4.
The petals are pushed in and out of the slots with the aid of a
motor. Each petal could be directly driven by single motor or they
could be driven as a pair with the aid of a flexible strip of metal.
The petals have serrated edges and they engage into the neighbouring
robotic cube through the 45 degree slots.
The serrated edges of the petals are engaged by either a gear wheel
or a large screw thread running the length of the slot which slides
the cubes along.
2.3 Implementation of computer control
All active robotic cubes have a limited microcontroller to perform
basic operations such as the communication and control of internal
mechanism.The commands to control a Fractal Robot are all commands for
movement such as move left, right etc and hence the computer program
to control the robot is greatly simplified in that whatever software
that is developed for a large scale robot, it also applies to the
smaller scale with no modifications to the command structure.
The largest component of the Fractal Robot system is the software.
Because shape changing robots are fractals, everything around the
robot such as tooling, operating system, software etc must be
fractally organized inorder to take advantage of the fractal
operation. Fractal Robot hardware is designed to integrate as
seamlessly with software datastructures as possible. So, it is
essential that unifying Fractal architecture is followed to the letter
for compatibility and interoperability. Fractal architecture dominates
the functions of the core of the O.S, the datastructures, the
implementation of the devices etc. Everything that is available to the
O.S is containerized into fractal data structures that permit possible
compatibility and conversion issues possible.
2.3.1 Fractal O.S
The Fractal O. S plays a crucial role in making the integration of the
system seamless and feasible. A Fractal O. S uses a no: of features to
achieve these goals.
1. Transparent data communication
2. Data compression at all levels
3. Awareness of built in self repair.
A Fractal O. S coverts fractally written code into machine commands
for movement. The data signals are fed to a bus (fractal bus). The
e3lectronics have to be kept simple so that they can be miniaturized.
Towards this end, the Fractal Robot uses principally state logic.
So its internal design consists if ROM, RAM and some counters.
2.3.2 Fractal Bus
This is an important and pioneering advancement for fractal computer
technology. A Fractal bus permits Hardware and software to merge
seamlessly into one unified datastructure. It helps in sending and
receiving fractally controlled data.
Computer software controls the shaping of objects that are synthesized
by moving cubes around. To reduce the flow of instructions the message
is broadcast to a local machine that controls a small no: of cubes
(typically around 100 cubes). All cubes communicate using a simple no:
scheme. Each is identified in advance and then a no: is assigned. The
first time around, the whole message and the no: is sent but the next
time only the no: is sent.

3. MOVEMENT ALGORITHMS
There are many mechanical designs for constructing cubes, and cubes
come in different sizes, but the actual movement method is always the
same.
Regardless of complexity, the cubes move only between integer
positions and only obey commands to move left, right, up, down,
forward and backward. If it can't perform an operation, it simply
reverses back. If it can't do that as well, the software initiates
self repair algorithms.
There are only three basic movement methods.
• Pick and place
• N-streamers
• L-streamers
Pick and place is easy to understand. Commands are issued to a
collection of cubes telling each cube where to go. A command of "cube
517 move left by 2 positions" results in only one cube moving in the
entire machine. Entire collection of movements needed to perform
particular operations are worked out and stored exactly like
conventional robots store movement paths. (Paint spraying robots use
this technique.)
However there are better structured ways to storing movement
patterns. It turns out that all movements other than pick and place
are variations of just two basic schemes called the N-streamer and
L-streamer.
N-streamer is easy to understand. A rod is pushed out from a surface,
and then another cube is moved into the vacant position. The new cube
is joined to the tail of the growing rod and pushed out again to grow
the rod. The purpose of the rod is to grow a 'tentacle'. Once a
tentacle is grown, other robots can be directed to it and move on top
of it to reach the other side. For bridge building applications, the
tentacles are grown vertically to make tall posts.
L-streamer is a little more involved to explain and requires the aid
of figure 5. L-streamers are also tentacles but grown using a
different algorithm.
Basically, an L-shape of cubes numbered 4, 5, 6 in figure 2a attached
to a rod numbered 1, 2, 3, and then a new cube 7 is added so that the
rod grows by one cube until it looks like figure 2f. The steps
illustrated in figure 2b to 2e can be repeated to grow the tentacle to
any length required. When large numbers of cubes follow similar paths,
common cubes are grouped into a collection and this collection is
controlled with same single commands (left, right, up, down, forward
and backward) as if they were a single cube as illustrated in figure
6.
By grouping cubes and moving them, any structure can be programmed in
and synthesized within minutes. Once the pattern is stored in a
computer, that pattern can be replayed on command over and over again.
The effect is somewhat similar to digitally controlled putty which is
as flexible as computer software. Digitally Controlled Matter Is The
Hardware Equivalent Of Computer Software.
Tools mounted inside cubes are moved with similar commands. The
commands to operate the tool are stored alongside the cube movement
instructions making the system a very powerful programmable machine.
4. SELF REPAIR
There are three different kinds of self repair that can be employed
in a fractal robot. The easiest to implement is cube replacement.
Figures 7 to 10 illustrates some images taken from an animation.
In respect of self repair, the animations show how a walking machine
that has lost a leg rebuilds itself by shifting cubes around from its
body. Some of the intermediate steps are illustrated across figures 2
to 4.
Instead of discarding its leg, the robot could reconfigure into a
different walking machine and carry the broken parts within it. The
faulty parts are moved to places where their reduced functionality can
be tolerated.
Regardless of how many cubes are damaged, with this self repair
algorithm, cubes can detach further and further back to a known
working point and then re-synthesize lost structures. The more cubes
there are in the system, the more likely the system can recover from
damage. If too many cubes are involved, then it will require
assistance from a human operator. In such circumstances, the system
will stop until an operator directs it to take remedial actions.
Systems designed with fractal robots have no redundancy despite
having built in self repair. Every cube in a system could be carrying
tools and instrumentation and thus loss of any one cube is loss of
functionality. But the difference in a fractal robot environment is
that the cubes can shuffle themselves around to regain structural
integrity despite loss of functionality.
In space and nuclear applications (also in military applications), it
is difficult to call for help when something goes wrong. Under those
circumstances, a damaged part can be shuffled out of the way and a new
one put in its place under total automation saving the entire mission
or facility at a much lower cost than simply allowing the disaster to
progress. The probability of success is extremely high in fact. Take
for example a triple redundant power supply. Although the probability
of each supply failing is same as the norm for all power supplies of
that type, the chances of more than one failing is very much less. By
the time a third power supply is added the probability becomes
miniscule. The same logic applies to fractal robots when restoring
mechanical integrity. Since there are hundreds of cubes in a typical
system, the chance of failure is very remote under normal
circumstances. It is always possible to redundant tools and then
functional integrity can also be restored. This technique gives the
highest possible resilience for emergency systems, space, nuclear and
military applications.
There are other levels of repair. A second level of repair involves
the partial dismantling of cubes and re-use of the plate mechanisms
used to construct the cubes.
For this scheme to work, the cube has to be partially dismantled and
then re-assembled at a custom robot assembly station. The cubic robot
is normally built from six plates that have been bolted together. To
save on space and storage, when large numbers of cubes are involved,
these plates mechanisms can be stacked onto a conveyor belt system and
assembled into the whole unit by robotic assembly station as
notionally illustrated in figure 11. (By reversing the process,
fractal robots can be dismantled and stored away until needed.)
If any robotic cubes are damaged, they can be brought back to the
assembly station by other robotic cubes, dismantled into component
plates, tested and then re-assembled with plates that are fully
operational. Potentially all kinds of things can go wrong and whole
cubes may have to be discarded in the worst case. But based on
probabilities, not all plates are likely to be damaged, and hence the
resilience of this system is much improved over self repair by cube
level replacement.
The third scheme for self repair involves smaller robots servicing
larger robots. Since the robot is fractal, it could send some of its
fractally smaller machines to affect self repair inside large cubes.
This form of self repair is much more involved but easy to understand.
If the smaller cubes break, they would need to be discarded - but they
cheaper and easier to mass produce. With large collections of cubes,
self repair of this kind becomes extremely important. It increases
reliability and reduces down time.
Self repair strategies are extremely important for realizing smaller
machines as the technology shrinks down to 1 mm and below. Without
self repair, a microscope is needed every time something breaks. Self
repair is an important breakthrough for realizing micro and
nanotechnology related end goals.
There is also a fourth form of self repair and that of self
manufacture. It is the ultimate goal. The electrostatic mechanisms can
be manufactured by a molecular beam deposition device. The robots are
0.1 to 1 micron minimum in size and they are small enough and
dexterous enough to maintain the molecular beam deposition device.
5. APPLICATIONS OF FRACTAL ROBOTS
5a. Bridge building
One of the biggest problems in civil engineering is to get enough
bridges built as rapidly as possible for mass transit and rapid
development of an economy. Shape changing robots are ideal for making
all manners of bridges from small to the very largest. The bridging
technology introduced here can be used to patch up earthquake damaged
bridges, and they can also be used as a means for the shape changing
robot to cross very rough terrain. To grow a suspension bridge, the
shape changing robot grows a bridge by extending a rod and it feeds
the rod using the L-shape streamer from underneath the rod. The bridge
assembly machine is built principally from simple mass manufactured
repeating cubes that move under computer control, and reshape into
different scaffolds in a matter of seconds
5b. Fire fighting
Fire fighting robots need to enter a building through entrances that
may be very small. The machines themselves may be very large and yet
they must get through and once inside, they may have to support the
building from collapse.
To a great extent fire fighting is an art and not completely reliant
technology. You need men and machine to salvage the best out of the
worst possible situations and often application of a little common
sense is far better than sending in the big machines.
But equally there are times where only machines with capabilities far
beyond what we have today are capable of rescuing a particular
situation. The application of shape changing robots is about those
situations.
Entering Buildings
Shape changing robots can enter a building through entrances that are
as small as 4 cubes. Figure 1 below shows what a robot can do to enter
a room through a duct. These shape changing robots could be carrying a
fire hose in which case on entering they can apply the hose
immediately.
Medical technology in the future may be applied on the spot to
victims of fire using shape changing robots that are completely
integrated into the robot in a machine that is fundamentally identical
to the robot - only fractally smaller.
Only a shape changing robot with fractal fingers and fractal tools
can sift through the rubble without disturbing it further to search
for survivors and bring them out alive. Using convetional methods, you
always run the risk of trampling over someone with your equipment or
loosening something that leads to further disturbance.
5c. Defense technology
The use of new technology of fractal shape changing robots in defense
applications is going to completely change the way warfare is
conducted in the next millennium.
The machines even at the slow speeds shown in animated figure above
can dodge incoming shells at 2 km distance by opening a hole in any
direction. While most tanks and aircraft need to keep a 4 km distance
from each other to avoid being hit, this machine can avoid being hit
and return fire inside 2 km, while carrying a formidable array of
fractal weapons integrated into a true multi-terrain vehicle, making
them totally lethal to any passing war fighters, aircraft, tanks, and
armoured personnel carriers; surviving shelling, rockets and missiles.
As the technology moves on to hydraulic & pneumatic technology, shell
avoidance is feasible at practically point blank range.
Nothing survives on extended warranties in a battlefield. With self
repair, these immortal machines are no match for state of the art
research directions in present day military robotic systems, which are
mere toys in comparison.
5d. Earth Quake Applications:
Once a building is damaged by earthquakes, the terrain inside (and
outside) the building is completely undefined. You need true
multi-terrain vehicles with walking abilities that can transform
interchangeably into crawling machines to get past obstacles and reach
the buildings and structures that need to be repaired. You need fire
fighting robots to fight fires, you medical robots to look after the
injured and you need that same machine to become the machines that
will enter the buildings, erect support structures and prevent it from
collapsing. Figure 15 and 16 below show how a very large shape
changing robot can enter a building through a narrow window and
rebuild itself one on the other side.
5e. Medical Applications
A fractal robot system with 1 mm cubes can squirt into the human body
through a 2 mm pin hole and rebuild itself inside the body into
surgical instruments and perform the operation without having to open
up the patient (figure 1).
A size 1 mm is just adequate for nearest point of entry into the site
of injury from the surface to perform very complicated surgery to
remove cancers, cysts, blood clots and stones. The machine reaches its
objective from nearest geometric point of entry by threading itself
past major blood vessels or pinching and severing them if they are not
for negotiation. The smaller the machines the more readily it can be
used to directly operate from the nearest entry point with the least
amount of wounding to the patient.
A machine like this could operate on shrapnel victims. As shrapnel is
a fractal object, the wounding it causes is fractal in nature. Thus a
fractal machine is needed to deal with a fractal wound. The faster the
machines operate all around the body, the more likely the patient can
survive the damage. In normal use, this machine must be able to drain
bad blood and fluids, detect and remove all foreign objects that have
entered the body, sew up minor wounds after cleaning and medicating
them, sew together blood vessels and nerve bundles using microsurgery
methods before sealing major wounds, move shattered bone fragments
inside the body and hold them in position for a few days while it sets
back, and when necessary, perform amputations that involves cutting
through flesh and bone. This surgical robot as described is called a
Fractal Surgeon.
5f. Space Exploration
Space is probably one of the best application areas for fractal
robots because of its cheapness, built in self repair and 100%
automation possibilities.
Space is extremely expensive and if things go wrong and there is
nowhere to turn for help. Using fractal robots it is possible to build
anything from space stations to satellite rescue vehicles without any
human intervention.
6. LIMITATIONS
• Technology is still in infancy
• Current cost is very high($1000 per cube for the 1st generation of
cubes, after which it will reduce to $100 or so).
• Needs very precise & flexible controlling software.
7. CONCLUSION
It may take about 4-5 years for this technology to be introduced and
tried out all over the world. But once the first step is taken and its
advantages well understood it will not take much time for it to be
used in our everyday life. Using Fractal Robots will help in saving
economy; time etc and they can be used even for the most sensitive
tasks. Also the raw materials needed are cheap, making it affordable
for developing nations also. This promises to revolutionize technology
in a way that has never been witnessed before.

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