University of California, Berkeley
Decimeter to centimeter-scale robots will create the opportunity to manipulate, sense and explore a wide range of environments with greatly reduced cost and expanded capabilities.
In many applications, the capability of millirobots depends on three factors: intelligence, mobility and multiplicity.
For intelligent macroscale robots, one can almost say that planing, sensing, computation and control capabilities are available off the shelf. However, at the centimeter and smaller scale, we are finding more cases where intelligent behavior does not depend on explicit algorithms, but arises from the intrinsic mechanics.
The study of small animals such as flies and lizards has led to "implicit intelligence" principles which can be applied to biomimetic millirobots. There remain significant challenges for millirobots in creating all-terrain mobility, and low production costs for multiplicity. However, there are advantages to this size scale for novel low-cost fabrication methods.
Ron Fearing is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, which he joined in 1988. He was vice-chair for undergraduate matters from 2000-2006. His current research interests are in milli-robotics, including flying and crawling milli-robots, parallel nano-grasping (gecko adhesion), micro-assembly, and rapid prototyping.
He has worked in tactile sensing, teletaction, and dextrous manipulation. He has a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Electrical Engineering (1988) and SB and SM in EECS from MIT (1983). He received the Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1991, and is the co-inventor on 12 US patents.
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