Researchers are building ingenious robot that could accompany NASA on its flight to Mars

»Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.« Will Optimus Prime, the robot with a license for leadership positions, soon be spreading his ideology of freedom on Mars?  Spoiler alert: not quite.  (Image sources: TOimages and daily_creativity via Adobe Stock).

»Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.« Will Optimus Prime, the robot with a license for leadership positions, soon be spreading his ideology of freedom on Mars? Spoiler alert: not quite. (Image sources: TOimages and daily_creativity via Adobe Stock).

The giant robots Arcee, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime are currently rumbling through the movie »Transformers: Rise of the Beasts«. So much for the fiction. A research group from Switzerland, meanwhile, is working on a real super robot, so to speak.

Mori3 is the name of the Transformer, who is really real – and who could soon support NASA on Mars (via Digitaltrends and Heise).

People on Mars: The United States Aeronautics and Space Administration (abbreviated: NASA) is planning a first manned flight to Mars for the 2030s (see In order for the flight to succeed, technical innovations are required. Such a novelty was recently discovered by a team of scientists from the renowned Swiss university EPFL developed.

This new product is called Mori3. It is a robot that can take on a wide variety of shapes and sizes – and which should therefore be particularly versatile. Watch and be amazed in the following video:

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What makes Mori3 special?

Mori3 consists of different modules. According to the scientists, each of these modules can be understood as an independent robot, complete with its own power supply, its own motors and numerous sensors.

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In this case, each of the modules can move along a subsurface. In addition, each of the triangular edges can change its length. In interaction, the modules should, as the scientists write, “be able to perform many different tasks”.

In other words: Mori3 is extremely changeable – from the comparatively flat 3D triangle to a multitude of other 3D objects, the robot can, well, transform itself into all kinds of shapes.

For the background of the research facility

The »Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Lausanne« (originally: »École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne«) is a scientific university in Switzerland. More specifically, Mori3 was built by the »Laboratory for Reconfigurable Robotics« (originally: »Reconfigurable Robotics«).

One of the lead scientists and directors of the lab is Jamie Paik, cited in this article; Paik wrote her doctoral thesis on the limbs of humanoid robots.

Jamie Paik, a postdoctoral researcher in the microrobotics lab at Harvard University and one of the key minds behind Mori3, describes the invention as follows:

»Our goal is to create a modular, origami-like robot. A robot that can be assembled and disassembled at will depending on the environment and task.«

Mori3: spread out

Flat as the proverbial flounder. Clearly visible in the picture: the various triangular modules that make up the robot.

Mori3: stable & ready for use

One of many positions: standing on four legs.

How does Mori3 work?

As mentioned above, the robot consists of several triangular modules. These triangles are combined to create polygons of different sizes. You probably already know the term polygons from the 3D graphics of games, precisely because objects of different types can be created from them.

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Such a polygon is an area that can have three or more vertices. So, in its simplest form, the polygon is a flat triangle. By assembling these triangles or modules in different ways, Mori3 creates a wide variety of shapes for a wide range of applications.

By the way: Not only the US NASA is preparing for a possible mission to Mars; the European ESA (»European Space Agency«) is also developing devices for the flight to the red celestial body. There are some special approaches for landing there, as this article shows:

How can Mori 3 be used?

Environments that are difficult to access are to be explored on a space expedition. The use of Mori 3 is specifically planned for this. Even if it is not possible to plan exactly what task a robot will have to perform on its job, Mori3 should be the tool of choice.

In other words: This new type of robot should be used less for specific tasks and sees itself more as a space-saving all-purpose tool. For starters, however, the responsible research team can imagine that Mori3 will be used, for example, to repair the fairing of a space shuttle.

In contrast to vacuum and floor mopping robots, Mori3 does not have one clearly definable purpose.

Clicked on: The results of the development of the robot were recently published in the scientific journal »Nature«. The title of the publication is »Morphological Flexibility in Robotic Systems through Physical Polygon Meshing«. Certainly not for a quick read during the lunch break, but basically very exciting from our point of view.

Do you think manned space exploration is a project that humanity should push forward? Or do you think there are better ways to use our limited resources? Do innovative robots make you curious about space travel? Write us about it in the comments!

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