Ever Thought About Baked Robots? MIT Has - And They're Developing The Technology To Create Them
3-D printers are so last month. If recent research being carried out at MIT is anything to go by, it's all about ovens now. A group of scientists there is working to design a line of robots that will self-assemble when they're cooked. So...ever wanted to bake yourself a robot?
Someday, you might be able to do just that. It's a bizarre thought, isn't it? After all, ovens are generally for food, not for creating your own robot army. I guess this is what happens when mad scientists get bored?
If it is, I think it should happen more often. Today, they're giving us oven-baked robots. Tomorrow, who knows what they might devise? Circuitboards assembled on the stove? An artifical intelligence given life by the microwave? Intelligent personal hygiene products?
We're getting a bit off track.
Currently, the project is very much in its nascent stages, and the researchers are working to figure out the most effective material with which to build their robots. So far, they've tested an aluminium-coated polyester that folds and twirls itself into the proper components under extreme heat. They've also tried a weird sort of polyester/PVC plastic sandwich; the PVC plastic deforms and causes slits on the polyester sheets to close, bending everything into the shape of a robot.
It's not just the materials that need to be nailed down. The scientists are also looking into developing a system in which CAD files are used to print out 2D patterns. Presumably, printing robots in this way would be cheaper and less time-consuming than printing them in a more traditional fashion. That...seems to be the idea anyway.
According to MIT professor Daniela Rus - I've mentioned her before - the team ultimately hopes it'll be possible to create useful robots anytime.
"We have this big dream of the hardware compiler where you can specify 'I want a robot that will play with my cat,' or 'I want a robot that will clean the floor,' and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device." And...I guess the oven is an integral component in this production process? I'm honestly still trying to wrap my head around the idea.
Rus and her team plan to present their findings at the currently-ongoing IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong in the very near future. In the mean-time, those of you who want to see a few robots get baked can check out a video of the process in action. Fair warning, it's...a little surreal.
Okay, more than a little.
Still, it's a pretty awesome concept - and after giving it a bit of thought, maybe the idea is that it'll make home-made robotics accessible to people who don't own their own 3D printer - they could simply order the necessary parts online then bake them in the oven when they arrive. The results will...well, they're certainly going to be sturdier than a machine made out of paper, at any rate.
Science is awesome, isn't it?