Most office supply stores charge about 10 cents to make a paper copy. But how much to print a robot? That request could come in the not too distant future. MIT is part of a research team developing technology that would—at the cost of about $100—allow people to build a functioning robot.
Through a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the five-year project, “An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines,” aims to develop a desktop technology that would make it possible to design, customize, and print a specialized robot. The project is spearheaded by Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Professor Daniela Rus and unites researchers from MIT, Penn, and Harvard.
From MIT News:
Researchers hope to create a platform that would allow an individual to identify a household problem that needs assistance; then head to a local printing store to select a blueprint from a library of robotic designs; and then customize an easy-to-use robotic device that could solve the problem. Within 24 hours, the robot would be printed, assembled, fully programmed and ready for action.
Robotic creation is typically an expensive and complicated technical process. An inexpensive, functioning 3-D robot could have potential applications in areas ranging from cleaning behind a refrigerator to exploring a contaminated area. Two prototype machines have already been designed: an insect-like robot that could aid emergency workers and a gripping robot that could assist people with limited mobility.
A robot would come pre-programmed to perform a set of tasks, but if a user wanted more advanced actions, he or she could build up those actions using the bot’s basic capabilities. That advanced set of commands could be programmed in a computer and beamed wirelessly to the robot. And as voice parsing systems get better, Rus thinks you might be able to simply tell your robot to do your bidding.