Book Review: Self-Reconfigurable Robots – an Introduction
by Kasper Stoy, David Brandt and David J. Christiansen
As it says in the title, this is an introduction to a an exciting and
growing field within robotics called Self-Reconfigurable (Modular)
Robotics. It is thorough, though still an easy read, and I predict
that it will be the definite introduction to the area for a very long time!
As one of the veteran researchers in the area, Mark Yim, says in
the foreword, it describes where SRCMR is today, how it got there
and where it needs to go in the future.
SRCMR is a research area that is trying to develop a universal
physical machine. We all know what Turing and Neumann’s universal
computing machine meant for the world, and I think it is safe to say
that that a universal (physical) machine will be even more significant.
It will impact nearly every aspect of human life over the coming decades.
Just like the tremendous changes brought on by the (universal) computer,
it will bring changes for nearly everyone and all throughout our lifes.
Who today doesn’t use computers both privately and in their professional
life! Therefore I believe that a basic understanding of SRCMR is essential
for many people and this book certainly delivers that!
The book is suitable for many different types of readers.
The beginner, having no prior knowledge of robotics or SRCMR, for whom
it provides a great and easy to read introduction presenting and
explaining all the basic concepts and problems in the field. It
presumes no (or little) prior knowledge and starts from the beginning
and also gives great recommendations for further reading to aid
beginners in their explorations of the SRCMR field.
I also think it is a great read for anyone already in the robotics
field, who that has not looked into SRCMR yet, as it contrasts SRCMR
to the rest of robotics. This book should be on the must read list for
anybody in robotics. I think a basic understanding of SRCMR is
essential, and this book is a great way to get that.
For us already in the field, it is great to see the first book appear.
It is also interesting to see all the concepts, possibilities, problems
and solutions in one coherent text.
The language and structure of the book is great: easy to read yet complete.
The book is thorough and goes through all aspects from module type,
robot type, connector design, power distribution and communications
network layout and reconfigurations algorithm related problems and
solutions. When dealing with a complex area like this, the choice of
what to include and not to include is important. I think the balance
in the book in that regard is very good. It focuses nicely on the areas
that would be difficult or impossible to find in any other source,
and leaves other topics, that might be easier to find elsewhere, out.
This results in a very thorough book that is still under 200 pages.
There are also plenty of recommendations for further reading and an
excellent list of interesting papers for anybody that would like more
information on any of the topics covered. I am reading through the list
of papers and they are a coherent set and, combined with the book, they
give a great in-depth picture of the area!
Is there anything missing from the book? Actually I do not think
so. Naturally there are many things related to SRCMR that are not in
the book (although you could find a lot of that in the papers in the
further/recommended reading list). But that is just the way it should
be, and therefore I feel that what is not there is not missing but
purposely left out.
To end this review I must say that I, like Kasper says in the preface,
hope that this book will fill the reader with enthusiasm for
contributing to the area in whatever way they can! And although this
is a hardcover book printed on good paper I fully expect to wear it
out either by re-reading/referring to it myself or lending it to
The book at Amazon (it is not an affiliate link)
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free review copy
from MIT Press, and I have met the authors.
About the authors:
Kasper Stoy is an associate professor
at the Maersk McKinney Moller Institute,
University of Southern Denmark (USD),
and a co-director of USD’s Modular
Robotics Lab. He received his MSc
in computer science and physics from
the University of Aarhus, Denmark and
his PhD in computer systems engineering
from USD in 2003. He spent a year of
his PhD studies at USC’s Information
Sciences Institute, CA, USA and has
been a visiting scholar at Harvard
David Johan Christensen is an assistant
professor at Center for Playware,
Techical University of Denmark (DTU).
He received his msc in computer
systems engineering and his Ph.D.
in robotics from University of Southern
Denmark (USD) in 2006 and 2008
respectively. DJC was a postdoctoral
researcher from 2008-2010 at USD.
His research interests includes
adaptive and self-organizing control
of modular self-reconfigurable robots.
David Brandt is a Post. Doc. at University of Southern Denmark.