Watch this: Robot assembles itself, then crawls away

Robots are typically very complicated devices, full of parts that need a long assembly time and a myriad of hands working on them. A new concept may change that, as researchers at Harvard and MIT have been working on a robot that builds itself. Like a Transformer lying in wait, this one can morph into a new shape.

There are plenty of use-cases to imagine this for. The ability to assemble what amounts to a flat-packed robot,t hen ship it off en masse, is likely quite attractive. The current design is small, but these can likely scale as effectively as we'd like.

The easiest correlation here is Origami, where a series of folds brings an item to life. Like Origami, an altered fold could result in a wildly different shape. Though these robots aren't quite as nimble as paper, designing a series of form factors into a flat-packed robot is an intriguing option.

This robot is also the first one to assemble without the aid of humans, making it as neat as it is scary. Discussing the "how", the research team had the following to say:

We developed shape-memory composites that fold themselves along embedded hinges. We used these composites to recreate fundamental folded patterns, derived from computational origami, that can be extrapolated to a wide range of geometries and mechanisms. This origami-inspired robot can fold itself in 4 minutes and walk away without human intervention, demonstrating the potential both for complex self-folding machines and autonomous, self-controlled assembly.

In roughly four minutes, the robot is ready to walk on its own. That's after constructing its form, and relying on no human interaction to do so. While these may not be ready for prime time, they do signal the start of something pretty special.

Via: The Verge