marXbot Feeds Itself By Hot-Swapping Batteries (video)

marXbot approaches the feeding trough, ready for its next battery meal.

Swap out a robot’s battery, and you feed it for a day. Teach a robot how to swap its own battery…and you better prepare yourself for the robot apocalypse because it doesn’t need you anymore. Engineers at EPFL have developed a battery swapping station for their swarming marXbot. When the robot detects it is running low on juice, it approaches the station and initiates a hot-swap, using high charge capacitors to keep it powered for 15 seconds as the old battery is switched out for a new one. Crucial systems never lose power. With the battery charging station, the marXbot can run nearly continuously for long periods of time (each battery lasts around 8 hours). Check out all the hot-swapping action in the video below. The robot never rests!

Robots that keeps themselves powered are nothing new. We’ve seen advanced humanoid bots that can plug themselves into the wall, and even robotic vacuums know how to get themselves fed. Yet the marXbot battery swap is pretty rare in it’s exchange of batteries. Instead of waiting to recharge, the bot just exchanges its dead battery for a better one. The charging station has 15 batteries it can refuel and then swap with the marXbot to keep it going. Engineers at EPFL went to great lengths to enable this continuous running feature, going so far as to redesign the base of the bot so that it can handle the hot-swaps. The potential of this system is even more impressive when you consider that the marXbot is designed to operate as part of a modular swarm. You won’t have just one bot clamoring for its battery meal, but dozens lining up to get some fresh electric grub. Kudos to EPFL for giving us the possibility of seeing the robotic version of a feeding frenzy. I’m all for these robots learning to take care of themselves, but please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t tell them we’ve developed batteries that run off fluids in the human body. I already fear the swarm enough as it is.

[screen capture and video credit: EPFL via mbonani33]

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