'HERMIT' Shells for Reconfigurable Robotic Interfaces

Inspired by hermit crabs, researchers at MIT's Tangible Media group  have designed a modular system for wheeled robots to dock to passive attachment modules, or "mechanical shells." The team's project "HERMITS" explores how physical interfaces and computers in people's daily life can adapt and reconfigure for user interactions with passive attachments. The researchers see a future where everyday robotic systems like robotic vacuum cleaners gain functionality and interactivity by switching shells. Different types of mechanical shells can extend and convert the motion of robots with embedded mechanisms, so that the system can offer a variety of interactive functionality by self-reconfiguration. The MIT team envisions this interactive architecture having applications in physical space organization and digital data physicalization.