Pushing forward on the vision of “programmable matter,” MIT researchers demonstrated a new kind of assembly system based on robots that can collaboratively build complicated structures from small identical pieces. Professor Neil Gershenfeld, graduate student Benjamin Jenett, and their colleagues present their research in a scientific paper titled “Material–Robot System for Assembly of Discrete Cellular Structures.” From MIT News:
“What’s at the heart of this is a new kind of robotics, that we call relative robots,” Gershenfeld says. Historically, he explains, there have been two broad categories of robotics — ones made out of expensive custom components that are carefully optimized for particular applications such as factory assembly, and ones made from inexpensive mass-produced modules with much lower performance. The new robots, however, are an alternative to both. They’re much simpler than the former, while much more capable than the latter, and they have the potential to revolutionize the production of large-scale systems, from airplanes to bridges to entire buildings.
According to Gershenfeld, the key difference lies in the relationship between the robotic device and the materials that it is handling and manipulating. With these new kinds of robots, “you can’t separate the robot from the structure — they work together as a system,” he says. For example, while most mobile robots require highly precise navigation systems to keep track of their position, the new assembler robots only need to keep track of where they are in relation to the small subunits, called voxels, that they are currently working on. Every time the robot takes a step onto the next voxel, it readjusts its sense of position, always in relation to the specific components that it is standing on at the moment….
Ultimately, such systems could be used to construct entire buildings, especially in difficult environments such as in space, or on the moon or Mars, Gershenfeld says. This could eliminate the need to ship large preassembled structures all the way from Earth. Instead it could be possible to send large batches of the tiny subunits — or form them from local materials using systems that could crank out these subunits at their final destination point. “If you can make a jumbo jet, you can make a building,” Gershenfeld says.
Corridor produced this excellent parody of Boston Dynamics’ robots and the style of its promotional videos. It could be the trailer for a new Neill Blomkamp or Paul Verhoeven movie, but where the satire is immediately transformed into stress because there’s very little about it that seems unlikely or even beyond the fairly immediate future. […]
Pittsburgh is now a hotbed of robotics and machine intelligence, and very likely the place the AIs will eventually sigh and commence the annihilation of humankind. 40 years ago it was just getting started. CMU Robotics: “From the Robotics Institute Archives in Honor of our 40th Anniversary, we’ve uploaded Ivan Sutherland talking about his 6 […]
OpenAI Inc. demonstrated a one-handed robot solving a Rubik’s Cube. Apparently the real breakthrough in this milestone was teaching the system to do the task in simulation. “While the video makes it easy to focus on the physical robot, the magic is mostly happening in simulation, and transferring things learned in simulation to the real […]
Big things are happening in tech with AI and deep learning. That’s not exactly a news flash when you look at how often companies use algorithms to manage everything from online advertising to the songs, videos, posts, and other digital content platforms recommend for their users. Getting into the field requires a pretty broad range […]
In the early days of the web, everyone wanted a .com domain for their site. As a results, all the good ones got snapped up. But .com no longer has the cachet it once did. In fact, many new business and individuals are opting for other top-level domain extensions. One of the most memorable is […]
Wireless charging is increasingly the way to go for busy professionals. It’s quick, portable, and won’t clutter up your desk or countertop with a maze of cables. Still, there are kinks in the Qi technology that drives these chargers. And apparently, some companies are working out those kinks faster than others. Meet the iPM Wireless […]