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Mori3: Shapeshifting Robots for Space Exploration.

There’s limited room on spacecraft, so having a shapeshifting robot could come in handy. That’s certainly the goal for the team at the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). The latest innovation in a line of versatile robots, Mori3 indicates a new checkpoint in the path to intelligent, shapeshifting technology. Mori3 combines digital polygon meshing with swarm behaviour. This groundbreaking technology enables the robot to transform from 2D triangles into a vast array of 3D objects. Basically, they’ve created robotic triangles that can ‘click’ together to form shapes capable of moving objects, or themselves. Initial footage of the robots, (available on YouTube), shows the robots transforming into a mechanical arm, moving a hockey puck and transforming into a rolling wheel. So far, the team at Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL have claimed Mori3 has potential use within space travel, as well as assisted living and manufacturing.

( © 2023 Christoph Belke, EPFL RRL)

Who created Mori3?

Mori3 is the brainchild of Professor Jamie Paik and her team at the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL. Prof. Paik, the director of the lab, envisioned a modular, origami-like robot that could adapt to different scenarios. Prof. Paik’s goal “is to create a modular, origami-like robot that can be assembled and disassembled at will depending on the environment and task at hand,”

They’ve been working on Moir robots since 2020. Mori3 is the descendant of their original invention, the origami-inspired modular robotic, “pneumagami”. The EPFL research, published in Nature Machine Intelligence, highlights the potential of modular robotics for space travel and additional use cases.

What is Mori3?

Mori3 represents a modular origami robot consisting of flat triangular modules that can seamlessly connect to create versatile shapes. Inspired by polygon meshing in the digital world and swarm-like behaviour in biology, this robot possesses the ability to change its size, shape, and function. By assembling and disassembling its modules based on the environment and task at hand, Mori3 demonstrates how shapeshifting robots can manipulate objects, move and change their shape to suit a variety of situations. Mori3 is a descendant of the Tribot - an insect-inspired millirobot with multiple locomotion mechanisms based on origami hinges & a modular origami robot consisting of flat triangles that are combined to form functional robotic shapes; both developed by Professor Jamie Paik and the team at Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL. Like intelligent Legos, these robots work together to achieve shared goals, such as moving objects or completing tasks. According to Christoph Belke, a Post-doctoral researcher in robotics “We had to rethink the way we understand robotics, these robots can change their own shape, attach to each other, communicate and reconfigure to form functional and articulated structures.”

A robot unit, walking robot
Mori3; Robotics

( © 2023 Christoph Belke, EPFL RRL)

Potential Use Cases of Mori3 in Space and on Earth:

Space Travel: One of the primary motivations behind creating Mori3 was its application in space exploration. Due to limited storage space in spacecraft, Mori3's modularity becomes a significant advantage. These robots can be transformed into various shapes and sizes, allowing them to perform tasks like communication and external repairs. Their ability to adapt to changing circumstances makes them invaluable companions for astronauts on long-duration missions.

Versatile Assistance: Mori3's modular and multi-functional design makes it a valuable tool on Earth as well. The robot can serve as an assistant in households, particularly for the elderly or disabled. It can assist with tasks such as retrieving lost items, moving furniture, or performing simple chores. Mori3's versatility enables it to adapt to different environments and requirements, making it an ideal companion for human users.

Shapeshifting Infrastructure: The ability of Mori3 to transform its shape and configuration opens up possibilities for reconfigurable infrastructure. These robots can be deployed in disaster-stricken areas to build temporary shelters, and bridges, or assist in rescue and recovery efforts. Their adaptability allows for quick response and efficient resource utilization in dynamic environments.

Industrial Automation: Mori3's modularity also lends itself to industrial automation. The robot's shape-shifting capabilities enable it to reconfigure and adapt to various manufacturing processes. From assembly line tasks to material handling, Mori3 can efficiently perform different roles, reducing the need for specialized robots for each specific task.

Mori3 represents a groundbreaking advancement in robotics, combining the principles of digital polygon meshing and swarm behaviour to create a shapeshifting modular robot. Developed by Prof. Jamie Paik and her team at EPFL's Reconfigurable Robotics Lab, Mori3 holds immense potential for space exploration and various applications on Earth. From its use in space travel for communication and repairs to assisting households and enabling versatile infrastructure, Mori3's adaptability and versatility make it a significant development in the field.


M. A. Robertson, O. C. Kara, and J. Paik, “Soft pneumatic actuator-driven origami-inspired modular robotic “pneumagami”, IJRR, 2020.

Z. Zhakypov, K. Mori, K. Hosoda, and J. Paik, “Designing Minimal and Scalable Insect-Inspired Multi-Locomotion Millirobots”, Nature, Vol. 571, p. 381–386, 2020.

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