Cheap robot armies: MIT working on 3D printed household robots

Photo: Jason Dorfman/CSAILHow would you like to design and own your very own robot? A new project led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology envisions a future where the average computer user will be able to design and print out robot helpers for every task.

Funded with a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, MIT is partnering with researchers from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania in this five-year project entitled “An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines”. The idea is to create tech for your desktop which would allow you to design a unique, specialized robot, and through 3D printing, have that robot printed out within hours.

It currently takes years to program and design a functioning robot. It also takes a good pile of money as well: hardware, software design, advanced programming and machine learning. By automating the process, individuals would be able to produce a functioning robot with cheap materials. As you can see, the researchers have already begun with origami robots. The two prototyped machines include an insect-like robot, possibly used as a scout/explorer, and a gripper robot.

Professor Vijay Kumar from the University of Pennsylvania calls the idea a gamechanger which, for starters, could change how high schools approach science and technology. But the potential for the project is vast and could be applied to education as well as manufacturing, personalized health care and even disaster relief according to Harvard associate professor Rob Wood. One of the research plans involves creating a platform which would identify an individuals household problems, then allow that problem-solving robot, picked from an array of different robot blueprints, to be printed at a local printing store (robot Kinkos?).

“It’s really exciting to think about the kind of impact this work could have on the general population — beyond just a few select people who work in robotics,” says Associate Professor Wojciech Matusik.

Smart Home

The robot invasion arrived at CES 2019 — and it was cuter than we expected

Robots are finally at our doorsteps, but they’re not here to annihilate us (yet), they’re here to be our friends. CES 2019 showed us some of the cutest robots we’ve ever seen. Here are some of our favorites.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

Scribit graffiti robot climbs your walls to draw (and erase) giant artwork

Scribit, the wall-crawling graffiti robot that can draw any image you can think of onto a vertical surface of your choice, made its debut this week at CES 2019. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.