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Northeastern University shows experiential robotics in new EXP space

Northeastern University's new Institute for Experiential Robotics is pioneering collaborative systems and bioinspired designs within a dedicated robotics facility. Unveiled inside Northeastern's Boston EXP research complex, the lab provides 8500 sq ft of high-bay workspace plus separate project areas for 20+ faculty exploring interdisciplinary automation.

Director Taskin Padir explains their mission - "to enrich human experience through meaningful robotics deployments." Researchers subsequently developed applications from packaging aids to lunar rovers reflecting that ethos.

One system called VERA features an array of spinning cubes inside an assistive tabletop. By reorienting objects via modular appendages rather than robot arms, the team reduced potential workspace intrusions. Partner Hanumant Singh praises VERA's reimagining of traditional robotic workcells.

Graduate students also built COBRA, a snake robot for navigating loose soil, which NASA may deploy scoping lunar craters. Mimicking biology, COBRA can form a complete loop then roll using momentum - ideal traversing sandy low-gravity environments.

Another team including bioengineer Austin Allison designed HASHI - dual-armed chopsticks for delicately grasping seafood and arranging meal trays. Allison notes chopsticks' widespread manipulation finesse across cultures, enabling facile handling.

These projects showcase the lab's scope for trailblazing based on human needs and nature's prototypes. Singh added that the collaborative facility with reconfigurable areas is instrumental in driving innovation. By co-locating specialties from AI to health around adaptable infrastructure, new paradigms emerge.

Whether crafting a robotic sushi chef or unfurling sensor snakes on asteroids, Northeastern's latest robotics think-tank offers tools and synergies channeled toward pioneering service applications.

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