Shape-shifting ‘Mori3’ robot designed to perform repair work in space

“Mori3 can change its size, shape, and function.”
Mrigakshi Dixit
Two Mori modules pairing
Two Mori modules pairing


At the moment, space exploration largely relies on robotic explorers. However, one limitation of robots is their inability to travel rough terrains and perform various tasks in space.

Shape-shifting robots have been proposed as a solution to meet the demands of future space exploration and even short space travel

With this in mind, engineers have developed an origami-inspired, space-changing robot called Mori3. 

“Mori3 can change its size, shape, and function,” said Jamie Paik, director of the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab, in an official release. “Our aim with Mori3 is to create a modular, origami-like robot that can be assembled and disassembled at will depending on the environment and task at hand,” Paik added. 

The design of this unique robot

As per the official release, it combines the capabilities of the “digital world of polygon meshing and the biological world of swarm behavior.” This allows it to transition from 2D triangles to practically any 3D object seamlessly.

Each module has a triangular form. This design enables the modules to readily connect to form polygons of various sizes and configurations, known as polygon meshing. 

“We have shown that polygon meshing is a viable robotic strategy,” said Christoph Belke, a Post-doctoral researcher in robotics. 

However, achieving polygon meshing was not a simple process. The team had to think about numerous aspects of robotics design, including mechanical and electronic design and computer systems. “We had to rethink the way we understand robotics. These robots can change their own shape, attach to each other, communicate, and reconfigure to form functional and articulated structures,” explains Belke.

After multiple trials and errors, the Mori3 robot demonstrated the capacity to walk around, handle and transport objects, and even interact with users. 

Use in-space applications 

The team emphasizes that modular design and multi-functional abilities may be advantageous for space travel applications. Furthermore, this robot prototype can easily alter its shape, allowing it to perform various jobs. 

“Polygonal and polymorphic robots that connect to one another to create articulated structures can be used effectively for a variety of applications. Of course, a general-purpose robot like Mori3 will be less effective than specialized robots in certain areas. That said, Mori3’s biggest selling point is its versatility,” added Paik. 

Mori3 robot has been created to fit them into a spacecraft with limited space. In this scenario, it might be challenging to put onboard several robots to execute different duties; however, Mori3 can overcome this issue. 

In the future, the creators hope Mori3 robots could be deployed for space travel activities, like communication and exterior repairs, to ease human workload.

Researchers lead the robot development from the École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the results have been published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence

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