Beckman Institute Robotics Research

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Over the years, our group members and collaborators have experimented with a number of unique robotic devices. The Pachinko Machine may look very different from the team of three Nomadic Scouts, but the underlying algorithms all rely on configuration space techniques to induce these robots to manipulate objects. Find more about our Robotics research from this PowerPoint presentation, and read the following summaries of the gizmos that live in our lab, 1510 Beckman Institute.

Team of Mobile Robots (Pong, Asteroid, and Centipede)

These three robots guide a convex object (read: foam triangle) around an obstacle course. Their main challenge is to keep the object captured at all times: no matter how much it wiggles, it cannot escape from the cage formed by the robots. The current implementation includes a state-of-the-art visual localization system composed of three cameras mounted on the ceiling. These cameras are equipped with infrared filters that respond to distinctive patterns of lights emitted by the robots. A binary vision system (developed several years ago at a lab in France) makes it possible to accurately compute the positions of the robots. With the localization system in place, the robots no longer stray off course...

Watch some recent demos of the robots in action!

Pachinko Machine

This device is a reconfigurable parts feeder with an array of pins. It was dubbed the Pachinko Machine, after the popular Japanese pinball/slot machines. The gizmo is also reminiscent of the Plinko Machine on the game show The Price Is Right.

Watch the Pachinko Machine Demo (MPEG video, 20 MB).

Reconfigurable Gripper

This gripper has an innovative design consisting of an array of pins each of which has one degree of freedom. It was used to demonstrate grasping and in-hand manipulation algorithms for 3D objects.

New Acquisitions


A small reconfigurable gripper, with a design conceptually similar to the one above.

A novel two-finger gripper.


Our group's robotics research is partially funded by the National Science Foundation under grant IRI-990709.